by Thomas Davis
Wei sat inside the cottage by the fire
And wove light strands into a radiant web
That glinted firelight back toward the flames.
The web threw light into the darkest corners
And made the cottage seem as if its warmth
Was filled with friendly spirits as the wind
Blew sleet and snow against the walls and roof
And seemed intent on battering its way
Into the small, safe place that Wei called home.
At last she let the strands of light go dark
And got up from the floor and walked to look
Outside into the storm’s cold, deadly fury.
She thought about her mother’s face before
Her sickness took away her strength and left
Her pale and weary in her single bed:
Her pale green eyes had always danced with light,
Her smile so bright it banished little hurts
That little girls could always seem to find;
In storms her eyes would grow intense, alive
To clouds that sailed with lightning, dragging fire
Beneath their rumbling through a winter’s skies.
Wei sighed and shivered. Frost had caked the window
And only left a small round hole to see
The wind ghosts walking just above dark ground,
Their fleeing emblematic of Wei’s life
Now that her mother was inside her grave.
Wei’s loneliness was sharp enough to burn
Into her flesh, her sadness like a mask.
She thought about the moment by the grave
When numbness made her silence all encompassing,
Her heartbeat stilled to nothingness.
She’d thought about the humans in the village,
Considered walking down the mountainside
And telling them she was a lonesome child
And not a fearsome witch birthed by a witch,
But then she’d felt the mountain stir its rock
And touch her spirit with a spirit old
As water splashing over mountain stones.
I won’t need them, she’d thought. They’d chase me off
And treat me like the deer their arrows kill.
But by the window, looking out at winter,
She felt herself begin to shake, not from the cold,
But from the loneliness she’d felt each day
Since she had been alone, her mother gone.
She thought about the dragons in their caves,
The way they lived their lives together, bound
By memories and happenings that flowed
Into their flights above the cottage, sang
Into their daily voices as they linked
The way each dragon was into community.
She dreamed while standing by the windowpane
About a golden dragon looking fiercely
Into her eyes and saying, “Yes, you’ll do.
The elders won’t object to how you’ve grown.”
And then she felt herself spread wings of light,
Made of the light she’d strung into a web
Beside the cottage fire, and lift into the air.
She saw the cottage below her as she flew
Toward the human village in a rage of joy.
The vision faded. She shivered, turned away
From wind that howled at wind ghosts in the storm,
And went back by the fire that needed wood
She’d split if death was not to be a guest
That visited with tendrils exquisite with frost.
She felt the dullness of her hunger burn
Beneath the burning of her loneliness.
“I’ll be a dragon.” In her voice she sounded sure.
She looked at arms too thin as food had dwindled
And rabbits had become aware that she
Was not as skilled at calling them to her
As when her mother did the winter calling.
She wondered if she’d ever feel alive
With happiness the way she’d felt before.
She settled by the fire and watched the flames.
Note: This is the fourth section of a long poem I have been skeptical about publishing in wordpress format, but have been encouraged to do so. The story was inspired by John Keats’ tale in his narrative poem, “Lamia,” although this poem uses blank verse rather than the rhyming couplets Keats used. Click on the numbers to read earlier sections: 1, 2, 3, 5.