Tag Archives: war

Inside the Place where Joy and Hope is Made

A sonnet from Thomas Davis

Inside the barn the memories of war
As horses ate their hay and cows were fed:

Inside three men, one white, two black, the roar
Of cannon, sight and sound of men that bled
Their lives out as the living and the dead
Were showered with hot, splintering fusillades
Flung in the wave-tossed night from hell, the dread
Of battle dancing as the barricades
Of what you were in being human fades
Into the chaos burning through the night.

The Preacher frowned: “Destruction serenades
Our hearts against our spirit’s holy light,”
He said. The others nodded. Each had prayed
To find the place where joy and hope was made.

Note: This is the next in the series of sonnets written as heads of chapter for a novel I am trying to work on. I have published several of these sonnets with previous posts. The sequence presents insights into an escape of slaves to Washington Island in Wisconsin before the Civil War. There was a small community of blacks on the island just before passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

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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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43. The Dire Wolves

a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis

1

The dire wolves, eyes as glittering as suns,
Began to gather in the hills and forests,
Great packs that knew of dragon, human wars
And salivated at destruction where
They would relieve the earth of carrion.
Upon the crest of hills they started howling,
Their songs a haunting madness shivering
Their ravening into the day’s cold skies.

As Wei kept laboring to stay in flight
The voices of the wolves caused her to rise
Above the tallest treetops, dragons flanked
Around her as they rose up from the ground
And filled the skies with colored scales and wings
That thundered as they flew toward the village
Where dragons battled humans to the death.
How could a little girl be who she was?
Wei thought. The scales of light she wore outside
The human dragon that she was perturbed her,
Although she also held onto her sense
Of self inside the weirding of her life.

Beside her Mmirrimann kept humming songs
That seemed much older than the winter skies.
They seemed to reach into a time before
Time found its measuring, its arrow’s flow.
Below the two of them Ssruuanne swooped down
And grabbed a human in her massive claws
And lifted him into the winter skies.
His frightened yelp was faint inside the beat
Of steady dragon wings that sent the horde
Toward the village Wei had left while young.

A pack of dire wolves burst out from the woods,
Their movement slow compared to dragon flight,
But filled with bristling energies that sang
Of violent spirits empty of remorse.
Beside her Mmirrimann sniffed his disgust.

2

Toward the mountains, distant from the flight
Of dragons, huge, a wall of mist began
To anvil up into the day’s bright sky,
Inside the mist miasma whirled and sparked
As if it held a winter lightning storm.
Shades gloamed in dusk as chaos sang and gates
And boundaries began to shift and fray.
Inside the storm, inside her daughter’s spirit,
Wei’s mother, father waved their witching arms
And blotted out the shine of winter sun.

3

Ruanne could feel the storm. The great black dragon,
His claws extended, hurtled at the shelter
She calmly nestled into; strong, gray slate exploded,
His body’s strength so large it took away
Delusions of her safety, hammering
The cottage roof a half a dozen yards
Away from where she’d hid. She sent a bolt
Of energy out of her frightened spirit
Toward the massive dragon with his one good eye.
She felt another spurt of energy
Mesh with the bolt she’d sent, the two bolts strong
Enough to knock the dragon off the roof.
The dragon roared, crescendoing his voice
Into the muttered roars that punctuated
The battles flaming just above the rooftops.
She did not think, but notched a burning arrow,
Then sent it at a violet dragon’s scales.

4

Knocked to the ground, Sshruunak could feel the horde
Of dragons in the air, their eyes and necks
Strained at the melee in the war’s first skirmish.
He wondered at the feelings forcing him
To understand that all his plans were dashed,
And, like the night he’d lost his eye, his life
Was spinning to a grim reality
He’d not seen in the shining of his dreams.
He pounded wings into the sky and searched
For dragons flying to the humans’ rescue.
A single light burned in the front of scores
Of dragons humming ancient warrior songs.
The rainbow of the light was much too bright
To countenance. Behind its fire the skies
Above the mountains roiled with spirit beasts
And chaos borne upon the winds he’d made
To start the glory of his dragon human war.

He saw his followers were scorched by flames.
The burning underneath his scales seared pain
Into his mind’s slow, sluggish desperation.
What should he do? he thought. What could he do?
He could not, would not lose the war he’d made.

5

A shock made Wei forget to keep her wings
In motion as she navigated currents
Above, below her shining dragon body.
Ruanne’s thoughts rang in Wei and made the world
Seem brighter than the possibilities that trembled
As dragons filled the skies with who they were.
The great black dragon fell and then was up
And raging at his puny human foes.
His followers were shaken by the fires
That gouged into their scales and weakened them.
Wei sent her dragon human powers deep
Into the stream of power emanating
From where Ruanne sat dazed upon a roof
As roaring captured all the world in pain.
Behind her in the wild miasma’s storm
The universe seemed like a madhouse thrown
Into a time where time did not exist.

Sshruunak’s attacking dragons felt the song
That Mmirrimann, Ssruaanne, the others sang.
Wei flew beside her dragon kin and felt
Her mother’s spelling at the boundary
Where all eternity and history
Spun on the cusp of change so powerful
No being would be like they were before.

To listen to this passage, click on The Dire Wolves

Note: This is the forty third 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 The Deadly Dragon Hordeto read the passage before this one. To read the next passage of the epic, click on Confrontation.

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42. The Deadly Dragon Horde

a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis

1

Up from the mountain slopes above the circle
Of black stone, dragons filled the sky, their hearts
And spirits fierce with dragon rage and war.
Above them, eyes afire, Sshruunak watched fiercely,
Exultant that his time had come, the skies
So filled with rising dragons that they seemed
A swarm of blackness, death aimed at the humans.
The sun was bright and echoed off the snow
That covered jagged peaks thrown at the sky.
He glided as they came to him, then turned
Toward the village closest to the caves
And shrilled his challenge at the universe.

2

The blackness emanating from the mountains
Made Wei attempt to move her too large wings
And lift herself into the morning air.
The snow around her sprayed and glittered light
Into the shining blue of cloudless skies.
Ssruuanne moved quickly back to miss the force
Of wings more powerful than Wei could know.
The human child inside the dragon body
Felt tears well up inside her tearless eyes
As nothing seemed to move as muscles strained
To lift a body not her body off
The snowy ground to insubstantial air.
Wei moved her massive legs and beat her wings
And roared frustration, startling her hearts
That thundered in her chest and frightened her.

She was a child, she thought. She could not be
A dragon with a dragon’s roar and hearts.

A little way away a wild-eyed Mmirrimann
Kept glancing at the sky and then at Wei,
His feet a drum-like tattoo on the snow.
He looked as if he did not know if he
Should launch into the skies or watch the rainbow
In front of him take life that seemed unreal.
Around him, stretched as far as Wei could see,
The other dragons stared at Mmirrimann,
Then Wei, as if they waited for a sign
That told them what the black mind-storm assailing
Them meant inside a day of miracle.
Great dragon eyes whirled colors at the light
Intense enough to make the morning golden.

Ssruuanne was silent as the human dragon
Strained at the gravities of solid ground.
She looked confused, as if she could not make
Her thoughts reorder to reality.

Reality seemed skewered from the course
Of natural life, its permanence undone.
At last, the struggle in her thoughts’ confusion
So strong it made Ssruuanne feel more human
Than elder dragon born with dragon strength,
She shook her massive golden head and grumbled,

“On ground this flat you have to run to fly.
The question is, what are you flying to?”

Sshruunak’s cry slammed its triumph through the plateau
As Wei began to run, her panic turbulent.
She lurched from one side to another side
As Mmirrimann and other dragons cleared
A path for her and wings that did not match
The rhythm of her wildly churning legs.
Ssruuanne took off so smoothly, wings
A golden flashing in the light, she seemed
A definition of a dragon’s grace.
Along the edges of the dragons’ circle
A dozen other dragons leaped to flight.
Then Wei, her heartbeats double beating rhythms
Her legs and wings could synchronize, so slow
It seemed as if she’d slam into the ground,
Rose from the snow into the air in flight.
She murmured to herself to feel the wonder
Of being what she was, a dragon flying
From human form into the heaven’s skies.

Around her dragons filled the air, so many
There did not seem the space to hold them all.
The blackness drumming at her mind suppressed
Exhilaration storming through her spirit.
She was a human dragon flying, strong
Enough to be the being she’d become!

And then she felt another cry, a human cry
That shivered where her arms had been and made
Her human heart asynchronous with how
Her dragon hearts beat with the beat of wings.
She gasped, a human, still a dragon. Fear
And anger made her stall, then start the beat
That kept her in the air again, the blackness
A song outside of who she’d ever be.

3

The coal black dragon led the arrowhead
Of dragons flying at the waiting village.
His heart calm, Cragdon turned and shouted out
The warning that the village knew would come,
Then dropped behind the wall and took his bow
Into his hand and lit a flaming arrow.
There had to be more dragons in the flock
Of dragons flying to their human war
Than he had ever seen in all his life.
Ruarther had not flinched to fight a dragon
By moonlight when the two of them had faced
What seemed to be a night of certain death.
Ruarther had no spirit of his own,
But Cragdon had a wife and child and love
And would not flinch to splash his arrow’s flame
Into the hardness of a dragon’s scales.
He waited, glanced to see the dragon’s distance,
Then knelt behind the stony wall again.

4

Ruanne, upon her cottage roof, heard Cragdon’s voice
And knew the time of blackness came on wings
Of many colors as attacking dragons
Gave shape to darkened songs inside her mind.
She felt the power of their warrior song
And felt her witch’s power stirring in response.
Come on, she thought. Come on. We’ll meet you here.
She lit the pot that leaped with flame and yelled
Defiance at the coming dragon horde.

To listen to this passage of the epic, click on The Deadly Dragon Horde.

Note: This is the forty second 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 Fate and Sentinels to read the passage before this one. To read the following passage, click on .

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40. The Shock of Rage

a passage from The Dragon Epic by Thomas Davis

The shock of rage from cold black dragon eyes
Stunned through Ruarther like a wave unmanning
The man he once had been before he’d faced
Ssruanne upon his hunt inside the forest.
A second sight surrounded him and let
Him see the spirit bear who’d governed him
Inside miasma holding who he was
Together with intensity of hate
Directed at the witch, Wei’s mother, who
Was brewing constancy inside of chaos.
He saw the past, and how he’d cowered down
Behind the boulder with a frightened Cragdon
As black wings swooped from darkness at his life
And spewed out darkness in its raging hate
That wanted all humanity to die.

The dragon he had passed flinched azure scales
As blackness roiled into her mind and echoed
Into the other dragons in the snow
Around the rainbow human dragon, Wei.
Ruarther felt the threat inside the rage
And shook himself, the core of who he was.
He saw himself before the Old One, bow
Pulled back as terror raged inside of him.
He heard the Old One’s pleading words that tried
To move him to compassion for a child,
And flinched to feel him send an arrow’s flight
Toward a being who had meant no harm.
He felt the flame that blazed behind his back
And saw himself, as frightened as a deer,
Turn, run toward the deepness of the forest.
He’d never thought he’d ever be a coward,
But only cowards sought a spirit bear
So they could have the strength to leave themselves
And hunt a young girl child they could have saved.

He looked at where he was, his body pointed
Toward the capitol where Clayton lived.
He felt his fingers on the bowstring taut
With death aimed at the rainbow that was once
A child and felt Ruanne inside his mind.
He felt the love she felt for him in spite
Of all the madness that she knew possessed
The man he once had been, and felt the bow
Fall from his hands into the plateau’s snow,
The human dragon child, the rainbow dragon
Oblivious to who he was or where
He stood with deadly rage in front of her.

The chaos whirled around him as the bear
Discerned his presence in the roiling void
And lunged in desperation at the path
Now open to the earth he longed to see.
Ruarther did not flinch, but closed the path
Sshruunak had opened with his wave of rage.
He felt the fires and claws of war intrinsic
Inside the blackness that had made the dragons
Flinch from the rainbow miracle unfolding
In front of Wei’s small house below their caves.
He touched the beard now overgrown from weeks
Without a razor, tried to understand
The cowardness inside of who he was,
And felt the creeping of depression slide,
As subtle as a snake inside deep grass,
Into his arms and thoughts that dredged a loathing
He’d banished from his life while still a child.

But then he squared his shoulders imperceptibly.
He had a task to do. He’d always been
A hunter who had brought game when starvation
Was in the children’s haunted, frightened eyes.
He’d been afraid of dragon flame when he
Had failed to hear compassion in a dragon’s voice.
He’d failed the test of what it was to be
A human being as the test was taught by gods
And values buried in the life the village
Had passed through timeless generations.

He looked out at the dragons craning necks
And looking at the skies as if they dreaded
A message trumpeted into the day.
He knew his enemy, the night-black wings,
The flame that seared his flesh and nearly sent
His spirit to the grayness of the void.
He could not face Ruanne or those he’d known
And fed for all the years he’d spent alive.
He felt her as she warned the village, Reestor
Of war launched from a mountain valley out
Toward the place where sentinels for humans
Lived close to where the mountain dragons lived.
He saw that he had always been conflicted
Inside himself and turned the love he’d earned
Away and felt unspoken feelings never
Imagined by Ruanne, the villagers.
Awareness sapped already weakened strength.

He’d never make the village by the time
The warrior dragons started up their war.
No dragon on the plain’s white snow had spread
Their wings and taken flight, but everywhere
Eyes searched the skies and waited as the wave
Of blackness dissipated into air.

Ruarther looked at hands that held no bow.
They trembled slightly as he looked at them.
He turned toward the village, shrugged, and started
To run toward the home he’d always loved.
He hoped the dragons in the snow surrounding
The rainbow dragon did not mean to join
The war the night-black dragon meant to wage.
The village had no hope if all the dragons
Began to move against their human foes.

He had to pace himself; he had to try
To add his arms and wits against the storm
No human could escape once it had come.

To listen to this passage, click on The Shock of Rage

Note: This is the fortieth 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 To War! And Raging Dragon Hearts to read the passage before this one. To read the next passage click on Fate and Sentinels.

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