a photograph by Will Bingen, our grandson
a photograph by Will Bingen, our grandson
an epic poem, The Dragon Epic, by Thomas Davis
Ssruanne’s cry ripped through Mmirrimann and jerked
Him upright in his cave, his whirling eyes
So bright they made the morning light seem dim.
He moved toward his ledge and launched in flight
Like other dragons from their sheer cliff caves.
The sky was filled with dragons, colorful
And urgent as they flew toward Ssruanne.
As Mmirrimann flew violently toward
The cottage where the witch’s child was braving
The harshness of the winters’ cold and wind,
He saw an image of Sshruunak, black wings
A smudge above the icy mountain peaks,
Imagining his victory against
Ssruanne and Mmirrimann, his mind still not
Aware of all the forces lining up
Against the brightness of his shining dreams.
Then, heart beats wild, the ancient dragon felt
The place where grim shades gloamed inside the dusk.
He felt disintegrating history
As dragons failed into miasma’s cold.
He almost plummeted to earth to see
Ssruanne upon the ground beside a whirling,
Wild dance of colors where the human girl
Was changing from a human’s frail, small shape
Into a dragon’s powerful, full form.
The girl was melding spindly bones and flesh
Into hard scales that shined with rainbow light
That caught the morning sun and danced and whirled
With making so unnatural and weird
It made him want to flee to memories
Where life was how it ought to be and weirding
Was more a legend than reality.
He roared so loud he thought he’d strained his lungs,
But then he heard the other roars surrounding
The place of transformation, heard the fear
That raged into the morning’s clear, clean skies.
He spread his wings and landed as a hundred
Great dragons found a place to place their legs.
What madness had inhabited the world?
The dragons sat inside a massive circle
Around the human girl and felt her melding
As power danced out of her human heart
Into the thunder of a dragon’s hearts.
As time coagulated, formed, then flowed
Into the swirl of being, nothingness
Around the rainbow dragon, human girl,
Ssruanne began to hum deep in her chest,
Her song so deep it throbbed out of her bones.
Her song memed out into the other dragons,
Their voices oscillating through the snow,
The earth caught in the miracle arising
From where the nexus of the ether-world
Had linked into a weirding of reality.
The thrumming dragon song reverberated
Off mountain peaks and echoed through the caves
That sang the song into the valleys far
From where Ssruanne and Mmirrimann sat stunned
Upon the plateau climbing to the mountains.
What madness had inhabited the world?
Huge dragons, rainbow colored, like small hills,
Upon the whiteness of a winter’s snows,
Around a rainbow swirl of burning light
Shaped like a dragon never seen before
In all of space or time, hummed dragon songs
That seemed to fill the universe in time
And where the chaos of the swirling souls
Spun emptily past dragon memories.
What have I done? Ruarther thought. I am…
The golden dragon that had made him run
Away from her so long ago came down
And landed in the snow beside the child
Transforming from her small girl human shape
Into a swirl of light now dragon shaped,
And then another dragon landed, then
Another, then another, wings so loud
It made him deaf to any other sound.
The dragons closed around him, breaths so loud
It made him feel as if he’d chanced a storm
Too powerful to live through if he stayed
In place without a shelter from the winds,
But not one dragon even looked at him.
They landed, whirling eyes fixed on the light
That burned a rainbow dragon’s hearts alive
Into a life that could not really be.
Ruarther dropped his bow into the snow
And turned toward the forest evergreens
Around the cottage’s stone-earthen walls.
He moved around the dragons one by one.
They did not threaten him or even see
That he was like an ant inside their midst.
He felt the emptiness inside of him,
The absence of the spirit bear who’d lived
Inside his body longer than he’d dreamed.
He thought about Ruanne, her dark disgust
At how a man she loved could dream of killing
A child he’d never known or even met.
How could he have become that evil man?
What madness had inhabited his world?
The dragons did not frighten him or make
Him feel the way he’d felt the night the great
Black dragon had attacked him by the ledge.
He felt confused, afraid of whom he’d been.
He stopped. He could not go back to the village.
He’d never wanted anything so bad.
He wanted to forget the witch’s child
Burned like a brand inside his tortured spirit
And go back to the days when he had been
A hunter bringing game to feed the people
Depending on the skills he’d honed from childhood.
What had he done to him? he asked himself.
Inside the trees he still maneuvered slowly
Around the dragons mesmerized in snow.
To listen to this section of the epic, click on Mesmerized Cave Dragons.
Note: This is the thirty-sixth section of a long narrative poem, which has grown into The Dragon Epic. Originally 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 Dragonflies, Dragons and Her Mother’s Death to go to the beginning and read forward. Go to Determination, Doubt, and Dreams of Victory to go to the section previous to this one. To read the next passage, click on The Song of Becoming a Dragon.
an epic poem by Thomas Davis
Inside his cave Sshruunak’s dark thoughts unleashed
A constant storm that pummeled him with lightning
As pain and anger raged with burning hatred.
He felt a fire so fierce it made scales burn
Into his flesh and scar his spirit’s song.
He’d let the healers come, extract the arrows,
And wrap his bloody eye with salve and webbing
Designed to let a membrane heal the wound,
But then he’d sent long streams of dragon fire
To singe all other males brave enough
To bring their fury to his cold, dark lair.
He brooded in the darkness like the worm
The humans once had said described his kind
And tried to find his balance in a world gone mad.
He’d always thought himself impervious
To any human wile and could not understand
How two small humans had defeated him
And made him flee the battle like a coward.
When old Williama came and stood outside
His cave and called to him, he snorted fire
And rumbled with his incoherent rage,
But chasing elders off was not as easy
As threatening the friends he’d had since birthing.
The old, dark dragon waited for his fire
To spend its breath, then came inside, her eyes
So wild with whirling colors that she seemed
As potent as Ssruanne upon the dais.
She stood in light made by her eyes and curled
Her lips so that her rows of teeth gleamed white
Inside the storm of hatred that he’d brewed.
“You’re hiding from yourself,” she said, her voice
A whipping blade of anger. “Now you know
Why peace was made before all dragonkind
Was lost to history and ancient myths.”
Sshruunak let silence stretch and coil
Into discomfort as the elder stood
And stared implacably at where his eye
Was blind, her stance aggressive, challenging.
“This universe cannot let dragons live
While humans breed like rabbits in the spring,”
He growled at last. “We live; they die, or else
They live, and we become an ancient myth.
You used the words; I spit them in your craw!”
Williama’s eyes grew more intense. She snorted,
A puff of fire flared out to light the cave.
“I was a fool,” she said. “I heard the geas Ssruanne
Called from the ancient spirits of our race
And let my hatred of the humans crush
My sentience and send you out to where
You were as big a fool as I when I
Called for destruction of the human girl.
When Mmirimann negotiated peace
I thought he was insane, but we are thriving
Inside these caves where once our numbers fell
Year after year through centuries of time.
The peace has got to hold. It’s got to hold.”
He stirred. “The young will follow me,” he said.
“I’ve heard their talk outside the cave for days.”
“You think you are a leader then?” she asked.
“Like Mmirimann? Ssruanne? The ones who made
It possible for us to live our lives
Without the threat of arrows in our eyes?”
The blackness in him stirred alive a force
More powerful than any dragon was.
It overwhelmed his pain and blindness, swept
Aside the reason in Williama’s voice,
And roared into the cave so loud the stones
Above their heads began to tremble, crack.
Inside the universe of sound Williama
Stood still, despair a wailing in her head
That echoed back into the times when dragons
Were solitary in their greediness.
Inside the cave Sshruunak seemed like a nightmare,
Wings black, his spirit black as shining wings.
She stared into the storm of who he was
And tried to find his sentience, the key
That could unlock the future of his kind
And let them all avoid a dragon war
Where young fought elders as their futures waned.
“You cannot kill the human girl,” she said.
“Ssruanne is eldest. She has seen the song
That’s gathering inside our dragon hearts.”
The silence was so sudden that it echoed.
He glared at her, his eyes so strong they seemed
As if they had the will to hypnotize all time.
“The humans who were brave enough to send
Their arrows in my eye are dead,” he said.
“A single dragon’s not the force that dragons
Assembled like a human army are.
Ssruanne’s girl took away my dragoness
And made me silent when I meant to speak.
She’s just as dead as those two hunters are.”
“Ssruanne and Mmirimann will fight against
Your craziness,” Wwilliama said. “The elders
Won’t easily forsake the future of our race.”
“The elders battling the young?” he sneered.
His blackness seemed to stretch outside the cave
Into the winter cold and coal black night.
“The young will win,” he said. “The young will win.”
“We’ll see,” Wwilliama answered, sadness like
A pool of water covering her spirit.
“We’ll see what dawn and dragon hearts will bring.”
She turned and left the cave. Sshruunak saw deep
Into the universe and saw the power
Of rage engulfing all the earth in flame.
“The hunters and the girl are dead,” he said.
“And if the elders have to die, they’ll die.”
Ssruanne would never use her geas on him.
Inside the darkness of his cave he saw
His blackness leading as a hundred dragons
Flew massed toward a village wrapped in peace.
Listen to an audio of this section of the epic: 19
Note: This is the ninteenth installment of a long narrative 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 18 to read the installment before this one. Go to 20 to read the next section of the epic.
by Thomas Davis
To John Stevens and Nick Moore
The dragon, deep inside the earth, the cave
Warmed by the bubbling natural pool,
Its scales half-moons that glistened blue
In light that emanated from the fires
That seemed refracted off a mirror’s shine,
Stared at the mages’ mumbling sing-song words.
Their incantations changed from spoken words
That echoed through the darkness of the cave
Into a rain of rainbows, dropping shine
Into the watered depths inside the pool.
The dragon’s eyes began to whirl with fires
Intense with cold and sparks of sapphire blue.
As light shot out from dragon eyes, a blue,
Dark luminescence glowed with rainbow words
That seemed as if they burned with endless fires
As timeless as the dark inside the cave.
The mage’s eyes, the dragon’s eyes began to pool
A meaning from the deep, dark water’s shine.
“Time is a watch,” the first mage said. “A shine
That lets a human get through heartaches blue
Enough to color universes, pool
Through generations into endless words
That forms an understanding of the cave
That makes of human minds great human fires.”
“Time is the earth,” the young mage said. “It fires
Up summers long with sun, then brings fall shine
To forests dancing red and gold as winter’s cave
Spreads fields of snow beneath skies’ frigid blue
Until the birds of spring begin to sing and words
From poets makes the world a spring fed pool.”
The blue-scaled dragon blinked its swirling pool
Of rainbow eyes and flicked its tongue at fires
Beyond the sight of mages, made its words
Into a stream of images, a shine
That showed the Book of Time as water, blue,
That bubbles warmth into a deep earth cave.
And time spun from the darkness of the cave
Into the world above and skies shined blue
As hearts lived lives inside time’s endless shine.
Note: A number of poets have been writing sestinas and publishing them on their blogs. There are different kinds of sestina, of course. The pattern used here is: 1. ABCDEF, 2. FAEBDC, 3. CFDABE, 4. ECBFAD, 5. DEACFB, and 6. BDFECA. The last three lines in an Italian sestina are used to summarize the poem. I have dedicated this poem to two masters using traditional forms: John Stevens and Nick Moore, who inspired me to write this after they published sestina masterpieces on their wordpress sites. I wish I could write with such mastery of craft and form.
by Thomas Davis
A young man with a fear of spiders on a train
Saw spiders inside, outside the dining car.
His heart began to beat; he had no breath,
Sweat poured from pours he did know he had.
The spiders, hairy, black and yellow, eyes
As big as saucers put beneath a coffee cup,
Ignored the man, but wove their silken webs
Into the air, silk flowing from the train
Into the soils, the meadows, mountains, seas.
As eons passed inside the young man’s mind,
A revelation germinated fire
Inside his head as blinding streams of light
Lit up the beads of rain drops on the web
Where rain was falling, making verdant earth.
He heard the elephants sing songs with voices
So low that only other elephants
Could hear the rumbling along deep veins of rock.
He saw, in total blackness, octopi
Illuminating barren sands with rainbow light.
He understood, at last, how small he was,
How much he throbbed inside the living earth.
Inside immenseness, fear, sweat, beating heart
Were melodies, part of the melodies
Sung softly by the planet earth to space.
A woman crawled into a gaping hole,
A lamp strapped on her forehead, ropes and pitons
Tied to her dull green army issued belt.
She clambered over rocks, around a fissure,
Until she found a cavern sparkling
With crystal white stalactites hanging down
From ceilings covered with the wings of bats.
She smiled and crawled until she came
Upon a pool of water clear as glass,
The stone beneath its depths a smooth, round bowl.
She bent and took a drink from waters cold
As all beginnings, as all the universe.
The water in the pool sank into earth.
The woman, startled, jumped back from the pool.
The water shimmered in the darkness, breathing
Around the smallness of her small, harsh lamp.