Sunday, September 9, 2012

Poem Of The Dragon

We were all sitting around in a circle in the living room when the doorbell rang.  Bright and clear.  Like Isabel’s voice on green hills. It rang again as I day dreamed. I jolted awake, eager to see what lay on the other side.
Standing illuminated in the glow from our weak porch light was a green dragon. He was not the giant lizard of old fairy tales, larger than ten buildings, but he was taller, thicker, and more scaly than me. Standing at least seven feet tall, I craned my neck backwards, feeling the back of my head touch my back as I stared up at him. I could see my own stunned reflection staring back at me in his glassy eyes. 
I thought that I detected green and scales, smelt burning embers that somehow reminded me of clean wind just above the clouds, but I was most entranced by these smooth yellow eyes.  I sunk into them, for as I said, I could see myself as he saw me, a nervous woman stunned by a creature she had only read about, but I could also see my form as the world he came from would see me.
I was blue and purple, a nebulous shape that was held together only by the tiniest strings, like blowing scarves stuck to a clothesline in spring.  In his world, my flesh had already fallen, my colors were already singing. 
Seeing the mixture of confusion and wonder in my eyes, sensing that perhaps the neighbors would begin to feel that something was amiss, somehow telepathically as nosy neighbors can, he cleared his throat and a few fiery embers escaped his jaws as he opened his mouth.
I shifted attention from his eyes to the tiny bits of flame that rose into the night like orange fairies. 
“Excuse me for that.  I am here for the writer’s meeting.  I am Maurice.  I brought some of my work.  I hope I am not to late.”
For a moment my mouth would not move, I must have lost control as I voyaged into his world. Coming back into mine, I could feel my tongue was stuck somewhere behind my teeth. Pursing my mouth together, I found the little bit of moisture that remained. 
The underlying sweetness of his voice echoed between us, as clear and bright as the doorbell had been.  Like Isabel’s voice on a green hillside. 
We met eyes once again, “Oh yes, come in,” I managed to say, using my best hostess voice.  Opening the door wider and stepping aside, he crossed the threshold, forever entering our tiny world within a world. 
As he passed, coming from the night into the daylight we created, I looked down at his hands, where hands would have been if he were human.  What he had were scaly green arms that ended in long yellowish-white claws that doubled as hands. Using both claws he held onto a thin manila folder, the kind used in offices around the world, which I assumed contained his written words.
It was only a few steps from the door to the living room.  As I followed his thin trail of smoky air, I saw the stunned looks waiting in their chairs, looking the same as I must have.
“This is Maurice,” I announced.  “He’s a writer here for the meeting.” 
Several people nodded obediently, taking the information in, the lifelong schooling in American social politeness not failing them yet. 
“Maurice, I’m going to get another chair from the kitchen for you.” 
Stepping away I could hear the awkward silence beginning, though just as that void opened, it was filled with the steady voice of Chester, perfectly timed to avoid any crash in energy.
“What do you write Maurice?”
“Mostly poetry.  I just started writing really.”
“That’s ok. Everyone is welcome here.”
I walked back into the room with a slightly worn metal folding chair in my hands, seeing polite nods from the gathered writers as the encouraging statement reverberated around the room. 
“Here’s a chair for you.  Let’s kind of... rearrange the chairs so there’s still a clear circle.” 
We took a moment to do this.
I could feel slight tension in the room, more palpable than just the usual bit of nerves that seemed to accompany all the writers that came to our house.  Jen slipped me a nervous look, her eyes were questioning, perhaps looking at me like I understood something that she didn’t, wondering, most likely, what a dragon was doing in our house.  I had no answer, I looked away.
Chester began:
“Ok, thanks for coming everyone.  For those of you that haven’t been here before, we take turns reading our work, or someone else can read it for you if you like.  Afterwards, we discuss it.  When you make a comment, try to give your impression and reactions. Talk about the way it made you feel or if there were any parts that were confusing. In general, try to avoid saying if it was good or not. Stick to how it made you feel.  Ok Jen, do you want to go first?”
“Sure.  This is the second half of the story I read last week.”
She looked down at her lap, to the story that was already sitting there on neatly typed pages, and began to read. Her words went into me.  The same flowing, evocatively descriptive work I was used to. 
Interested in reactions, I looked around the room.  Maurice sat with his eyes closed. The scales between his eyes were ruffled as though listening intently.  Small bursts of steam shot out from his nose in intervals, growing more steady and thick as the tension in her story mounted. 
I looked up and noticed Scott was not watching Jen reading either. His attention was on Maurice, watching his recurring bouts of steam and hiss, entranced as I was. Scott’s eyes were wider than usual as he watched steam evaporate delicately into the middle of the room. Looking up suddenly he caught me watching him, his eyes full of questions. I was as surprised as he was.
When Jen was done reading, I snapped back into writer’s meeting mode, listening as each person gave their reactions.  We went around the circle, taking turns.  Maurice opened his mouth to speak and more orange embers escaped.
“I felt like crying when the baby was drowned by the crashing waves.  It was beautifully described.  I could really feel the emotional pain.” 
There were nods from those around the circle. 
Chester went next, reading in his barely accented voice the short story of one sunny afternoon in his childhood.  Maurice did not close his eyes this time, he stared at Chester, his yellow eyes growing wider as the dialogue unfolded like a sweet smelling flower.  Smoldering smoke came from his ears, slithering up into the air in quiet movement.  Jen coughed, reacting to the extra smoke in the room.  Chester coughed every once in a while, giving Maurice a curious look every time he did so.
When it was Maurice’s turn, all eyes turned towards him. 
“Ok, this is a short poem I wrote a few months ago. I have it memorized.” 
There were nods all around the room.  I felt my heart begin to pound as he readied himself, that uncomfortable feeling in my chest when the energy has mounted and soon we will be at the cliff’s edge.
He closed his eyes, his wide bulging lids seemed to be made of a thin green skin, though I thought I could detect the yellow of his eyes glowing beneath them like little lamps. 
The room was quiet.  The skin around his mouth began to move, twitching as though out of his control.  It went on like this for half a minute and we exchanged nervous glances, for we were not used to silence among us. 
Then the scaly skin on his nose began to twitch as well, joining he erratic bursts of his closed mouth.  A grumble came from deep within him, somewhere in his gut, though it sounded like a call from another world.  He opened his mouth and several deep and extended syllables emerged, through none of them sounded like the English he had spoken to us all night. 
I craned by neck towards him, hoping the gesture would bring me closer to understanding. Just as I did, I was met by a wall of pure fire.  I could smell singed carpet, I saw the black spots of melted nylon. 
I looked at Sophie who sat across from Maurice, her long blond hair now singed to the ears.  Maurice opened his eyes. One final burst of steam rose from his ears. 
He looked around the room.
“The fire comes out involuntarily when I get into a sort of trance state.  I am so sorry.”
“No. No,” said Mike, “I could see that you were really into it.  Must be very emotional work. I have to say though, I didn’t really understand it.”
“Yes, it is not really meant to be understood, just shared.  Perhaps you know what I mean.”
There were nods once again all around the room.  We held another moment of shared silence, taking in the truth of what he had said.
Chester coughed once and then cleared his throat.
“Well, thank you everyone for coming. We’ll be meeting here again in a few weeks. Everyone is most welcome to come,” he looked right at the dragon.
We rose, stretching our limbs.  We all shook hands and I grabbed Maurice’s cold claw as we said goodbye.
“Thanks for coming, hope we see you again.” 
He nodded with a smile,  “Yes, possibly.”
The door closed, everyone was gone. The smell of smoke still remained.

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