by Thomas Davis
The frost upon the window melted, Wei
Stared out at evening skies and watched as dragons
Launched flight from caves in numbers greater than
She’d ever seen before, their colored scales
Dramatic in the sunset’s streaming fires.
She wondered what was wrong. They all seemed stressed,
As if they had to flee their underground.
She watched to see the golden dragon’s scales,
But if she flew, she flew outside Wei’s sight.
She watched until the shadows brought the night,
Then went to sit beside the fireplace fire.
In front of warmth brought by the cheerful flames
She felt half dazed, as if the day’s events
Had been too much, and now she wanted rest.
She looked down at her fingers, made a bar
Of light stream out into the darkness, held
It in the air until it looked as if
It was a substance rather than a stream of light.
She smiled, then stopped the motion made to make
The light. The light fell down and clinked on stone.
Her mind was suddenly awake; a chill
Made hair behind her neck stand up and tremble.
The bar was fading on the floor, the light
Bleached out, its substance round and strangely long,
As if its substance was not made on earth.
She put her legs beneath her, stretched her hand
Toward the substance made from light she’d made,
And gingerly, as if it might be hot,
Touched light congealed into a strange, long rod.
The rod was warm and seemed to still contain
A memory of light that it had been.
She sat back, saw the golden dragon’s eyes
Stare as it flew so close above her head.
She felt the darkness shift, as if her time
Was not the time where she was at inside
The cottage built below the dragon caves.
She made another stream of steady light
And welded it into the rod she’d made,
And then she made another rod until
She had a rabbit cage designed to capture
The meal she had not had for much too long.
She looked toward her mother’s empty bed
And saw her mother faintly in the dark.
Behind her mother, coaching her, his hands
So large they seemed as if they had the strength
To hold the world, her father, dead so long
She only had the vaguest memory
Of what his face had looked like during life,
Was pantomiming every move her mother
Was making as she sent the moves to Wei.
Wei gasped. Her mother looked into her eyes,
Smiled sadly, let the dark intensify,
And left the room to emptiness and night.
Wei felt as if she’d never move again.
She glanced toward the rabbit trap she’d made.
Her mother, from her grave, had made her daughter
As powerful a witch as ever lived.
She felt the song she’d sing to bring the rabbits
To where they’d find themselves inside her trap.
She felt so restless that she rose and walked
To where the window looked into the night.
Outside she saw the flames of dragon breath
Light up the darkness like the fireflies did
On summer nights. A dragon knew no fear.
Their largeness dwarfed the strength that humans had.
What madness made them fireflies in the dark?
She moved her hands, her eyes intent on where
She’d seen her father and her mother’s forms.
She concentrated on the golden dragon’s scales
And let her fingers shoot light through the air.
A golden scale, as hard as iron, suspended air,
Burned with a light so bright it blinded Wei.
She brought the scale onto her arm, singed flesh,
The smell and pain tears running down her face.
She felt so strange she thought she heard the stars
Sing songs of dragon fire into the night.
Her tingling arm felt like it was not her,
But separate, more dragon than a girl.
The light stopped flowing, made her gasp;
She slumped down to the floor, her consciousness
A dream she’d conjured from her mother’s grave.
Audio of The Substance of LightVN800015
Note: This is the thirteenth installment of a long poem. Inspired by John Keats’ long narrative poem, Lamia, it tells a story set in ancient times when dragons and humans were at peace. Click on the numbers below to reach other sections, or go to the Categories box to the right under The Dragon Epic. Click on 1 to go to the beginning and read forward. Go to 12 to read the section before this one. Go to 14 to read the next section.