By Karen Tucker


Twenty dragons and their riders sit
on Heaven’s Mountain, redly lit
by rays of setting sun.  And it
cares not how long they silent sit
in waiting, they who once had bit
the dark earth with their long claws, slit
the sky with wings that beat, or sipp’d
at mountain lakes that distant lipp’d
enchanted shores where once they dipp’d
their bodies in the cooling depth.
Oh who is there that knows the breadth,
the height, the depth of wickedness
that brought them to this living death
upon this hill, where never breath
of mortal or immortal flesh
can stir their stony silentness,
until there comes a fair princess
(who knows not where their bones may rest)
to rescue them by fateful kiss,
who only can release from this
the dragons and their men.

For twenty years they stand and stare
over the valley, green and bare.
Now who approaches?  Tis a fair
and gentle maiden, long of hair,
with retinue and dancing bear
and hangers-on, and silver chair.
And dancing round her in the air
a host of fairy girls appears
and one by one, with seeming fear,
approach the dragons, dark and sere.
And when the last has landed there
the princess raises arms and flares
to incandescent light and shares
her magic with the stony stares
of beasts and riders, men and mares.
The mountain shakes, the stone skins pare
and peel away, revealing there,
standing free from twenty years,
who move and breathe and snuff the air
and, glancing, spy the maiden fair,
the dragons and their men.

Then forth to war she bids them go
to fight against the evil foe;
to vanquish him, so he may know
he cannot oppress her people so.
They answer to her tale of woe
and spring aloft, weave to and fro,
spreading panic as they go.
Above the battle’s ebb and flow
they spy the King upon his throne,
and moving as a single drone
they, like an arrow thrusting home
come with fire to quench his flame.
They flare, he dies – the battle’s won.
They return from whence they’ve come,
their day’s work over, duty done.
The princes bids them thanks, but then,
no kiss imparted, turns away.
They must return from whence they came,
and flesh and blood and breath of flame
surrender to the stone again
the dragons and their men.

Must they now wait a hundred years,
until the people, full of fear,
send another princess there
to bring them from their curséd stare
and give them freedom, flesh and air;
reward for all their patience; share
her kingdom with the heroes, dare
to wake from death and give them care,
the dragons and their men?