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