Tag Archives: epic

Invocation to the Epic Muse

by Thomas Davis

The string's untuned! Degree, priority
And place, insisture, course, proportion, form,
Season, office, custom–all are made
Disordered, mutinous, as unified
As raging seas and shaking earth. Stability is shaked.
Commotion in the winds and changes, frights
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate.
The Clockwork Universe is dead![1]  And God,
Our Father who art in heaven, does play dice[2].
Planck’s constant[3] proves that Heisenberg’s
Uncertainty[4] is fundamental in the universe.
We look at light as if it’s made of waves,
Then see it’s made of particles that smear.
Quarks[5] live! And yet, they’re probability, a sea
That crests and falls, appears and disappears
Until, at last, improbably, uncertain, mad
With change that computations photograph,
Light is, we are, the universe exists.

I walk in Purgatory looking up
Toward the shining Earthly Paradise.
I long to see the Griffon bathed in light
Inside the Garden where the Tree of Good
And Evil grows. I long to feel the weights
Imposed upon me by the Angel Guardian
Before the Gate of Purgatory lifted off
My spirit as I rise toward a Purity of Heart. [i]

I long to be a Greek, like Kazantzakis, wild,
Sun on my head so that its Song of Light
Can spray the earth, the global grape, with life.
I am Odysseus with my long coarse hair
And body hardened by black brine, the great
Mind archer, the forty-footed dragon wreathed
With steaming blood, reflected light, and flame![ii]

I follow Virgil as he presses on apace
With darkness-wrapped Aeneas and his friend
Achates through the rough-hewn citadel
Of Carthage being built by Dido, Queen.
The cloud that swirls before my eyes is magical.
I walk down city streets among a crowd
Unseen, amazed that none perceive me there.
Then, later on, I hear the voice
Of Mercury who bids me leave the joy
Of Carthage and my love for Dido’s eyes
And go to found the Trojan city, Rome.[iii]

But gravity bends space and time, and though
I am a poet, “redy to wenden on
My pilgrymage, “[iv] and though I sit inside
This summer’s heat and pray my muse: Sing me. . .
”And through me tell the story of that man. . .,” [v]
and though I wish to find a hero large enough
To roam the wide world after he has sacked
The holy citadel of Troy, I am American,[vi]
A polyglot whose being is becoming, he
Whose language was confused at Babel, he
Whose light was scattered on the face of earth,
Mankind whose particles act just like waves.

What mutiny runs through the song I sing!
Community and brotherhood contend
For order, shatters, builds, then bends to change.
As Sitting Crow kneels in his cold garage
He dreams that glory can be forged from pain.
He is the first American, black hair, black eyes.
Beside him, on the concrete floor, are stolen tires.
A part of living, reproducing, dying earth,
He sits inside the cold garage and dreams.
He laughs at death and wraps into its dark,
Holds fires of glory in his hands and throws
Out globes of flame into the darknesses
That plague his people’s lives:

Alcohol
And drug addiction, poverty, and squalidness
That wraps its cloak about the Reservation towns,
Each dawn so hopeless that it spreads a dull,
Blank dread inside the streaming morning light.
He dreams, and like a planet throned and sphered
By gravity, he bends time, government, and space
Into the universe that whorls out from his dream.
He strives to rent the fabric of America,
But makes, instead, a symbol of the way
That chaos builds complexity, which leads,
According to a probability distribution not
Yet computated, to a glory that might yet become.

O, listen to the winds inside my mind,
O muse, O Calliope, Moon Woman, water mixed
Into the Hippocrene’s deep well where Pegasus
Once struck his hoof and made a drinking place
For poets mad enough to court their frenzied dreams.
Stir up my words inside the winds and make
A tempest strong enough to bear this tale.
I am a man and not a god. I wear the cloak
Humility has fashioned for my race
Of kindred hearts and spirits. Only you,
O muse, O Calliope, can let my song
Run wild among the stars and worlds found there.
I sing of war and of men at war. . .

[1] Sir Isaac Newton, the great physicist and mathematician, saw the universe as having the regularity and celestial mechanisms of a clock.
[2] Albert Einstein, in response to the quantum physics, exclaimed that God does not play dice with the universe.  Einstein believed in saying this that the universe is governed by unified laws and principles.
[3] Planck’s discovery unifies the seemingly contradictory observations that energy sometimes acts like a wave and at other times acts as if it is made up of particles.
[4] A principle in quantum mechanics holding that increasing the accuracy of measurement of one observable quantity increases the uncertainty with which another conjugate quantity may be known.
[5] A physical particle that forms one of the two basic constituents of matter, the other being the lepton.
[i] Alegieri, Dante, The Purgatorio, translated by John Ciardi (New York:  New American Library, 1957).
[ii] Kazantzakis, Nikos, The Odyssey, A Modern Sequel, translated by Kimon Friar (New York:  Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1958).
[iii] Virgil, The Aeneid, translated by Robert Fitzgerald (New York:  Vintage Classics, Random House, Inc., 1990).
[iv] Chaucer, Geoffrey, “Prologue,” The Canterbury Tales (Ruggiers, Paul G., General Editor, facsimile of the Hengwrt Manuscript (Norman, OK:  University of Oklahoma Press and Wm. Dawson and Sons, Ltd., Folkestone, 1979).
[v] Homer, The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald (New York:  Vintage Classics, Random House, Inc., 1990).
[vi] Modified from Virgil, The Aeneid, translated by Robert Fitzgerald (New York:  Vintage Classics, Random House, Inc., 1990.

Note: I have written two epics. This “Invocation to the Epic Muse” introduces one I wrote decades ago, An American Spirit, An American Epic. It is considerably longer than “The Dragon Epic.”

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47. Living Inside Chaos

a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis

1

The dire wolf woke Ruarther from his daze.
A male as large as any that he’d seen,
Eyes red, fur ragged, black as moonless nights,
Snarled, bold, into the opening between
The stone fence where Ruarther stood and woods.
It saw Ruarther, crouched in hunting stance,
And stared at him, its baleful eyes twin cauldrons
That bubbled hatred, blind ferocity.
Ruarther jumped down from the wall and grabbed
The bow from Cragdon’s lifeless hands and sent
An arrow at the wolf in one smooth motion.
The wolf, wise to the wiles of men, moved sideways,
The arrow burying into a tree.
Ruarther pulled the bow again and aimed
At where he thought the wolf would move to dodge
His arrow’s flight; the wolf howled; other wolves
Began to come out of the forest trees.
The wolf dodged sideways once again, but true
To how Ruarther’s aim had been, the arrow
Imbedded sharpened stone in flesh; the wolf,
Now maddened, blindly charged toward Ruarther.
Ruarther sent another arrow deep
Into the charging wolf’s dark heart; it fell
As other wolves howled rage that shivered
Into the roiling clouds behind their movement.

The chaos sang with noises not of earth.
A coldness colder than the fiercest storm
Rolled to the wall and poured into the village.
The howling voices of the wolves were silenced.
Ruarther heard the spirit bear, who’d tried
To occupy his body, in the cold.
It sniffed at him, then sniffed at Cragdon’s body,
Then turned toward the village as a dark
That was no dark descended on the world.

2

Above the battle Wei kept circling
As humans sent their flaming arrows splashing
Across hard dragon scales and dragons fought
With dragons as the village cottages
Caught fire and filled the air with smoke and flames.
She felt the chant Ruanne was singing deep
Inside her spirit, the song so powerful
It seemed to alter how time’s arrow moved
Across the day toward night’s distant rising.
Each time she wheeled to keep herself aloft,
She saw the clouds of chaos moving like
An anvil, dense as molten iron, toward
The village, humans, dragons, and the war.
She felt her mother’s and her father’s songs
Inside the chaos, felt her mother buried
Inside her human dragon triple hearts.

Extinction swirled inside the freezing clouds.
Wei felt the message from her mother’s singing.
A dragon flying through the air, she longed
To feel her mother’s loving human touch
Upon her cheek before her mother tucked
Her gently into bed, the long day done–
But she had lost her childhood when her hands
Had woven dragon flesh around her spirit
And made her more than what she should have been.
At last, the boiling clouds intense with cold
Near village walls, she joined Ruanne’s strong chant
And started changing it away from dragons
That spewed their fire toward her slender body
Toward the chaos threatening the lives
Of every creature, every tree, on earth.
The surge of power as she linked her voice
To Ruanne’s voice was startling; she flew
Toward the anvil-looking clouds and reached to find
Her mother’s and her father’s voice in chaos,
Their struggle as they tried to make an order
Inside a universe that knew no order.

Her mind was buffeted by winds so strong
And cold they numbed her sense of who she was
And almost knocked her from the skies she flew.
Her scales seemed like they would dissolve in cold
And flow into the winds that were no winds,
Her spirit part of nothingness that hurled
Its nothingness around for all eternity.

How could she live inside the nothingness?
The stream of chanting from Ruanne dissolved
Into a song so small she hardly knew
That it still tied her to the world beyond
The gray that sucked at her and tried to meld
Her spirit with the fleeting hints of life
That flowed and merged into the whirlpool-flow
That mocked the order that her parents sought.

Deep in her self, beyond the human dragon
That she had made, she reached toward a song
Beyond her individuality.
She tried to find the hearts of who she was
Beyond the being that she was, the truth
Of how life’s impulse strained against the chaos
Imbedded in existence, making possible
The beauty and the substance of the world.

3

Ruarther faced the cloud and cold and felt
The raging storm of nothingness unman
Him from the human man that he’d become.
He did not flinch, but reached into the place
That let him throw the surging spirit bear
Away from who he was and meld his essence
Into the spirit of the self he was.
The chaos storm’s noise roared into his flesh
And numbed the beating of his human heart.
The cold bit down into his will and sucked
Determination from the spirit that he was.

He turned toward the village, feeling nothing
Inside the dark that raged around his body,
And tried to feel his way toward Ruanne.
She had to be alive. His love for her,
Denied so often in his stupid pride,
Was strong enough to will that she still lived.

To listen to this passage click on

Note: This is the forty seventh passage 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 Retreat to read the passage before this one.

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32. Mmirrimann Inside the Conclave He Called

an epic poem, The Dragon Epic, by Thomas Davis

1.

The weirding shocked Ssruanne awake and stirred
Inside of her a fear that made her hearts
A double drum vibrating in her bones.
Beside her Mmirrimann was sleeping like
A dragon slept, not like a dragon caught
Inside miasma’s cold, chaotic winds.
He twitched to feel her movement, stirred,
But stayed asleep, his eyelids fluttering.
She softly moved away from him and stood
Upon the ledge outside his cave, her eyes
As restless as the beating of her hearts.

She spread her wings and launched into the air.
Disturbances seemed everywhere, the signs
Of abnormality small waves in drafts
Beneath the surface of her golden wings.
She looked toward Wei’s cottage, felt the wilding
That seemed frustrated as the human girl
Attempted magic far beyond her skill;
Then turned her neck toward a copse of pine
That seemed to swirl with chaos not unlike
The chaos Mmirrimann had fled to find
His life again inside the dragon caves.

The swirling seemed to buffet her with winds
That were no winds, repelling her to heights
She hardly ever tried to reach in flight.
Behind her, deep inside the mountains, stones
Scorched black from dragon fire grew tangible
Inside her mind, their silence testament
To how the dragon race would face extinction.
She shuddered at the death they emanated
Into the cold, high beauty of their valley.
Downhill she felt the fear inside the humans
That huddled in their village cottages,
But also felt the strength infused in bows
They’d use to face unwanted dragon threat.

They would not face Sshruunak oblivious
And unprepared, she thought. His plans had gone
Awry without his knowing once again.

The clarion call from Mmirrimann inside
The caves stirred deep in dragon blood and tipped
Her wings so powerfully she almost plunged
Toward the fields of snow beneath her flight.
Her neck whipped round toward the ancient call
And wheeled her in the air toward the caves.
She shuddered at the implications buried
Inside the call, the threat of dragon war
Where dragon’s faced each other in the skies
And tried to force their will through claws and fire
Into the hearts of spirit, sentience.

How had their peace devolved to this? She thought.

2.

They all were there: The nine huge elders sat
Upon the round, black dais, their eyes a-swirl
With patterns troubling to look at, each
One grim with seeing Mmirrimann perched high
Above them on the dais where, during peace,
Ssruanne, the oldest one alive, presided
While conclaves delved into the wisdom born
Of dragon dreams and dragon sentience.
Before the nine of them the dragon race
Was gathered, restless, angry, filled with fear
Born from a dread that overwhelmed the hall.

Ssruanne walked in the massive cavern
And took her place below her lover’s mass.
He’d shed the weariness he’d felt before
And looked as if he’d never faced a time
He doubted his own strength and dominance.

“The younger males are stirring dragon blood,”
He said, “and taking on another war
That adds another chapter in the long,
Long history of battling the human race.

“I’ve journeyed deep into our memories
And tried to see if they could find a way
To victory that would not threaten all
The strength of dragonkind with racial death,”
He said. “But in the chaos where the dead
Are gathered in a storm of chaos empty
Of who we are upon this splendid earth,
I saw despair without a shred of hope
If dragon/human war erupts again.
I’ve called the call against our senseless sons
Not out of love for humans, but for our eggs
Still incubating in the birth cave’s warmth.
“If any can convince Sshruunak that he
Must not continue in his path, I ask
You for your words and passion. Otherwise
I’ve seen no way that dragons will survive.
The puny humans are like swarms of wasps
That sting and sting no matter how we sear
Their lives with dragon strength and claws and fire.
I’ve warred upon them time and time again,
But dragons dwindle every time we choose
To face our foe with war instead of peace.

“We must choose peace to build our population’s strength.
That’s what I found inside miasma’s chaos.
I saw no other way to keep our eggs alive.”

The nine great elders stared into the mass
Of dragon eyes that whirled perplexity.
As Mmirrimann kept staring at the eyes
That stared at him, a clutch of males positioned
Toward the passages into the cavern,
As silently as possible, began
To turn and leave the hall to join Sshruunak.
Williama sighed so loud she forced Ssruanne
To turn her head to look at her dismay.
At least another dozen males had left.

At last, his voice so sad it seemed to flood
Miasma from the chaos through the hall,
His whirling eyes uncertain, Mmirrimann
Rose to his hind legs, larger than Sshruunak
Or any other male alive, and roared,

“We cannot fail. We must succeed. To war!
To war against our brothers and our sons
And all their unwise dance with dragon deaths!”

To listen to this section of the epic, click on Mmirrimann Inside the Conclave He Called

Note: This is the thirty-second section of a long narrative poem, which has grown into The Dragon Epic. 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 Doubt to go to the section previous to this one. To read the next section of the poem, go to Vertigo and the Moment of Sudden Truth.

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29. Another Dragon Scale

an epic poem by Thomas Davis

Beside the pond’s white, frozen face, the sound
Of water from the stream beneath the ice
A muffled music in the morning air,
Wei waved her arms and conjured motes
Of fire congealing to a dragon’s shape.
She strained to make the dragon breathe with scales
As golden as Ssruaanne’s great shimmering.
She concentrated, gathering the whole
Of whom she was into the spell she wove.
The motes of light began to coalesce.
The dragon in the air took shape, its eyes
So bright they nearly seemed to be alive.
Wei felt the power in her young girl’s body
Sweep out of her into the dragon’s head,
Its nostrils flaring as she tried to find
A dragon’s breath in dragon lungs beneath
The light she wove into the winter air…

But then, just like the other times, the motes
Of light collapsed into a day’s blue skies.
She held the eyes a moment as they looked
At her, their golden green intelligence,
But even though she danced her hands and wove
Her body as she tried to find the power
That let the spell she’d made exist in time,
The dragon eyes scattered into nothingness.

The irritation that she felt was strong
Enough to make her want to cry, but deep
Inside she knew that if the tears began,
They’d wrack her body, bringing weariness
That would not let her try to form a dragon
From air again for days and maybe weeks.

She shook her head and felt the warmth the sun
Was pouring down onto the fields of snow.
A hint of spring was in the air, although
Real spring was still at least a month away.
Why did she feel as if she had to form
A dragon from the still-fresh memories
Ssruanne had left inside of who she was?
What kind of girl had she become? Her mother’s
Ethereal spirit once alive, now gone?
Her body thin enough so that it seemed
As if a puff of wind could scatter her
Just like the dragons that she tried to make
Evaporated into empty air?

She sighed and turned away from where the sun
Would shine upon the pond’s still face in spring
And walked to where the woodpile stood and took
Two chunks of wood into the cottage-warmth.
She put one piece upon the fire and watched
As flames licked up its sides through rising smoke.
Why had her mother’s ghost not come again?
She asked herself. Where had her mother gone?

She shook her head and picked the rabbit laying
Beside the sink up by its large hind legs.
The trap she’d made from fire had kept her fed
As winter kept its grip upon the land.
Strong spelling had its uses. That was sure.
She took a knife out of the drawer, started
The job of skinning rabbit fur and hide,
And thought about her coming birthday, how
It would not mean what once it would have meant.
She’d get no presents, eat no special meal.
She missed her mother, not the spectral form
That taught her spells out of her mother’s grave—
Her living mother quick to comfort her
And pick her up and make her feel love’s warmth.
She put the knife down, poured some water, washed
Her hands and quietly walked to her bed.
She’d never heard of anyone with power
Enough to make a dragon out of air,
But still, she felt as if she ought to breathe
And work her spells and feel a dragon’s life
Flow from her hands into a living dragon.

She sat down on the bed and looked at where
The dragon’s scale was burned into her arm.
A bunch of other kids would stare at her,
Then scream and run away to see the scale,
She thought. They’d know that she was strange.

She waved her arm above her head and felt
The scale grow warm. She moved both arms and felt
A spell grow in the air, its power stirring
Inside the cottage, stimulating life.
She started humming underneath her breath
And broke into a song that trilled and soared
And made her feel her power once again.
She was a girl, she thought. A girl. A girl.

A square beside the scale she wore began
To burn her flesh; she felt the fire inside
Her arm and felt a second scale begin
To grow beside the first, a dragon’s life
Inside her life, out of her life, a dragon…

She stopped and let her arms fall from the air
And let the silence come back to the room.
She held her arm up, stared at where two scales
Laid side by side, their gold burned in her arm.
She waved her arm and tried to feel if it
Was heavier than it had been before.
It felt as if it was her arm, but looked
As strange as any arm had ever looked.

What kind of girl had she become? she asked.
She felt the movements of the fate
That waited her and felt as strong and fierce
As any dragon born out of an egg.

To listen to this section of the epic, click on Another Dragon Scale

Note: This is the twenty-ninth section of a long narrative poem, which has grown into The Dragon Epic. 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 Unexpected Warning to go to the section previous to this one. To read the next section of the epic, click on Valley of the Scorched Black Stones

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14. The Beginning of War

an epic poem by Thomas Davis

I.

Sshruunak fled high into the winter skies.
He left the concave as his blood raged fear,
Leaped from the nearest ledge into the air
And blindly flew toward the mountain peaks,
His black wings driven down so fiercely hard
He rose and rose until the air was thinner
Than what his lungs could gulp into his hearts.

His thoughts kept singing, Ssruann! Ssruann!
The dragon witch! The witch that ruled his tongue!
And made it so he could not think or speak.

At last, his head so light from lack of air
His dizziness buzzed weakness in his wings,
He wheeled toward the peaks, in moonlight, far
Below him, silver shining light on snow.
He drifted, thoughtless, like a shadow stained
In darkness of the dark beyond the moon,
Then saw, far off, long down the mountain slopes,
A fire built by a human fighting cold.

He did not think, but moved his long, dark wings
And let his rage stoke furnaces inside
His hearts. Humiliation was a fire
That violent death would turn to triumph born
When dragons ruled the earth with claws and fire!
He rumbled deep inside his chest and roared!

II.

Ruarther felt as if he’d fought a war.
He looked at Cragdon’s haggard face and grimaced.
They’d moved on crusts of hardened snow that caved
Deep holes they had to clamber out of shaking.
They’d labored upward, slow as creeping turtles,
Until they’d seen the ridge that jutted black
Against the blinding light of sun-struck snow.
Night cold had burned their faces with its knives
When, at long last, they’d reached the ridge and trees
With limbs that they could use to build a fire.
The weariness they felt was like a weight
That would not let them move their arms or legs.

When Cragdon saw the distant puffs of flame
That flickered all along the mountain’s slopes,
He only motioned as he pointed at the lights.

“What’s that?” he croaked, his weary voice half dead.

Ruarther forced himself to stand and stare.
He listened to the wilderness’s silence,
Felt strangeness make him grab his bow and crouch,
His eyes a restlessness scanned at the sky.

“Your bow!” he hissed at Cragdon. “Hurry! Now!”

He saw the dragon as it flew at them,
Its blackness huge inside the moon’s bright light.
He notched his arrow at the hurtling blackness
As Cragdon, suddenly aware of death’s
Black dragon hide, let go another arrow.
The dragon roared, its roar so threatening and loud
It made Ruarther tremble from its rage.
He turned and saw the space between the boulders.

“Behind the stones!” he yelled. “Our war has come!”

III.

An arrow skipped a half inch from his eyes
Off scales into the dark, but then another
Burned into his right eye’s pupil, sending
Gross streams of blood and pain into the wind
His body made as wings beat hard and fast.
Flame spewed into the dark toward the midgets
That tried to flee his might behind huge rocks.
He roared his rage and pain and soared as ground
Brushed hard and cold against the tip of wings
That lifted him. He hated humans! Death!
He raged. He was of dragonkind, a brother
Of death, destruction, hate, and ancient rage!
He wheeled toward the puny men again
And roared as if his voice was dredged from realms
Where humans congregated past their graves.

IV.

He would not be afraid again, Ruarther swore
Beneath his breath behind the boulder’s shield.
He glanced at Cragdon, saw the dragon’s breath
Had seared the bobcat coat he wore, exposing flesh.
The campfire burned its cheer into the night.

He heard the dragon turn and waited, breath
Forgotten as he tried to time his move
So that his strength could send a deadly arrow
Into the dragon’s eye and make it flee.

The dragon’s wings were loud. Ruarther moved
Into the open, saw an arrow buried
Inside the dragon’s right eye, drew his bow,
And tried to drive another arrowhead
Into the same eye spewing dragon blood.
The dragon’s flame enveloped him with agony.
He could not hear or see the dragon rake
Its legs into the surface of the snow
Or see a second arrow’s shaft protruding
Out from the dragon’s eye, blood staining snow.

V

Sshruunak’s pain flared as if the universe
Had disappeared into a blood red fire.
He felt wings drive into the freezing snow
And barely lifted from the ground where death
Was waiting. Claws extended, pain a haze,
He tried to rake the flesh he’d burned with fire.
But dragon will was not enough to let him wheel.
I’ve damaged both my wings, he thought. Both wings.
He flew toward the caves and thought about
Ssruann’s last words she’d used to silence him:
“The girl is one of us,” she’d said. The prophecy
A geas that led him in his foolishness
To court his death confronting puny men.

Click to hear an audio of this section: The Beginning of War

Note: This is the fourteenth 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 13 to read the section before this one. Go to 15 to read the next section of the epic.

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13. The Substance of Light

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.

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Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis

12. Weaving and Dragon Song

by Thomas Davis

Ruanne sat by the small triangle window,
The morning light a comfort past the storm.
She pumped the small wood loom and fed the strands
Of hair from mountain sheep into the shuttle,
Her hands in constant rhythm as she wove
Each row of heavy cloth into a rug
That metamorphosed howling winds and clouds.

She tried to concentrate upon the wisdom
Of Selen who, upon her loom, had woven
The weaving of a man and woman’s flesh
So human love could populate the world,
But all her efforts skittered like the beads
Of bear grease on a blazing, black iron pan.
Thoughts turned to images: Ruarther caught
By madness, storming from her life to wilderness,
Snow fields a glittering in morning light.

A knocking broke into her reverie.
She deftly tied the weaving so the row
Of gray and blue would stay in place for later,
Got up, and greeted Reestor at the door.
The old man looked pale, weary in the light,
His deep eyes ringed below white eyebrows sweeping
Toward white hair that covered half his forehead.
She smiled and stood aside to let him stomp
Into the cottage, cold around him biting
Into the room warm from the morning fire.

“You’re early for your rounds,” she said, her sadness
Surprising her inside her too soft voice.

Inside his heavy coat he looked more like
A bear than just a man, she thought. A wildness clung
To all the men who hunted for the game
That let the village live through winter storms.
She wondered if she ought to leave her cottage
And make the journey to the nearest town.
Ruarther was the one who’d kept her here.

But now? She smiled as Reestor growled as if
He truly was a bear. He shrugged his coat
Off shoulders strengthened by the years he’d spent
Outdoors before they’d made him village leader.
He walked toward the fire, put out his hands,
Then turned to look into her dark green eyes.

“I saw my father and my brother die,” he said.
“I didn’t live here then. I moved here later–
When Mother couldn’t stand the thought of Breenan.
Two dragons came upon the town all fire.
You seldom saw more than a single dragon then.
My father took his great long bow and hit
The older dragon, Pphhitin, in his one good eye.
The younger, Mmirimann, went wild
His breath so hot it fired the town’s wood roofs;
His claws sent dozens to their early graves.

“The great green brute not only burned our house,
But Mmirimann flung down upon my father,
The dragon killer, scorching flesh with fire.
He left the body black as smoky quartz,
So burned light seemed translucent through
The skull left bare without a shred of flesh.
The smell still visits me at night sometimes.
My brother tried to drive a metal spear
In Mmirimann, but didn’t have the strength.
The dragon swatted him away and speared
A broken rib into his young man’s heart.”

Ruanne stood silent, waiting. Reeston looked
At memories he’d long ago suppressed.
He suddenly looked up into her eyes.

“I don’t like kings,” he said. “The rich men live
Rich lives while those of us who find survival
In places where the rich would never live
Develop bonds much stronger than privation,
But Clayton’s Peace has given us good lives.
No human, or a dragon’s, died from war
For nearly all the years I’ve lived. But now…”

Ruanne still did not speak, but waited, spirit
So taut it seemed as if she ought to scream.

“We see more dragons in the sky each year,”
He said at last. “They have evolved, and we
Are still the humans that we’ve always been.
Ruarther’s craziness will stir their hearts
And bring about rage we have never faced.”

Ruanne let out the breath she’d held too long.
She shook her head. “I know,” she said. “But what?”
She paused. “The witch’s daughter shouldn’t die.
The children in the village shouldn’t face
The rage of dragon fire and raking claws.”

Determined, Reestor looked at her. “You know
The Dragon Songs,” he said. “You’ve heard them sung
Inside your head. You have to let them know
Ruarther’s left our village, lost his mind…”

“I’ve never said I hear the songs,” Ruanne said softly.

“I see it in your eyes, the way you shine inside,”
The old man said. “I’ve lived too long a life.
I hardly sleep, but still, you’re like the witch’s child.”

His words struck like a blow. She was a witch?

“Ruarther’s left me all alone,” Ruanne said.
“I’ve loved him since we both were children… babes…”

“He’s gone, Ruanne. You’ve got to let him go.”

“I’ve never spoken to a dragon, never…
They’ll never answer me… they’ll never hear…”

“You’ve got to try. The children don’t deserve
To die because Ruarther caused a war
That humans cannot hope to ever win.”

Ruanne escaped from Reestor’s burning eyes
And looked at where she’d sat upon the loom.
She shook her head. What could she really do?
She said a silent prayer to sagacious Selen.
She’d always forced the dragon’s songs away.
She was her mother’s child, not witch’s sister.
She’d known the mountain witch, but never once
Felt like they had a bond of flesh or blood…
She looked at Reestor, panic in her eyes.
She talked to dragons, villagers would drive
Her into wilderness, hate’s refugee.

The village children couldn’t die, not if
She had abilities that might protect them.
The old man looked past eyes into her heart.

Audio of Weaving and Dragon Song

Note: This is the twelfth 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 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 11 to read the section before this one. Click1 13 to go forward to the next section.

10 Comments

Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis