Sympathy for the Dragon

My double nature fused in that point of time
three weeks ago day before yesterday.
Now, brooding thro’ a history of the early Church,
I identify with everybody, even the heresiarchs.


After Eden, everything is downstream.
It is the sweat of
ancestors we drink, the meat
of their beliefs we eat,

their names we take. Fingers
press against a work finished
in death recollections of Self
felt before exile. Dream-walking, gathering

what the earth gifts in
the night. Excavating from the
brittle Braille of our past
some future that sounds like


breaking furniture being thrown onto
fire by the lengthening of
the shadows of those dethroned
tyrants no one admires and

only foul weather remembers. A
winter that would die in
sunlight whether or not anyone
else witnessed its crackle converse

with each layer of flesh
flames caressed as its hiss
rippled to surface. Acrid, parsimonious.
A colourless voice scenting the


room with autumn our mouths
met at a silent feast.
Scorched taste of deaths by
them within us kissed. Dead

men’s limbs legacy laces into
shapes of hopes our failures
face when taken on, knowing
they will never be fulfilled.

Pigmented falls flaking from cave-paintings’
walls fainting visions flowing through
sinew, carried by song blown
into marrow. Bones grown from


some code, some chivalric necessity
to be honoured by these
bodies our souls carry. By
this oath hollowed out, to

be beheld by those whose
own growth they would forego,
this burden they would behold,
if only to know the

battle we go through alone.
Weighty armour impervious to ancestry
penetrated by adversity, for the
war echoes beneath skin. Rages


again when memories interject, manifesting
as aching our hearts contend
against physics to prevent from
resurrecting. Fragrant sentiment impossible to

forget, its working through us
effortless as patterns accomplish themselves
when undoing faith with truth.
Chewing through sutures the way

this jaw of mine clenched,
pitting fang against tooth in
evolution’s undoing, learning that my
grandfather lost his father at


the same age I did
mine. That this might be
why he pushed away others
after, nesting in thickening waves

of solitude until he died.
Radiating distances the way I
incline this head of mine
toward shadowing sorrow, to find

in our fading yesterdays those
radiant tomorrows that never came.
Come what may, ancient tragedy
replicates the same sting the


same way traits do, choruses
decay. Variations played, gamed in
the body’s varied systems the
way genes mutate, but carry

in veins what onyx vanity
disturbs the forest floor, troubles
the waters, of this interior
world blood, as breath, collects

to gather into orbs with
resilient force, what sinister urge
emerges even more perfect than
before. This performance of mine


our kind preferred to menace
from inside. Many lives each
lived, lives even still, ever
since rehearsing with skill what

lie survives after that hope
has been killed. Misdone by
nature making them miserable is
one fate myths perpetuate. This

monster at map’s edge a
mouth agape. A snake or
a whale, a prophet’s beard
or its own tale, we


are the story we fake
having made. Making of misfortune
some more unfortunate Leviathan than
orphaned sons can take on

when already someone so transformed
by another art’s form, turning
pain to song. My grandfather’s
father died in his arms.

My own alone in a
parking lot, seven gunshots at
another’s hand in an attempt
to avenge a heart’s debt.

1John Berryman, “Eleven Addresses to the Lord”, Section 6: “Under New Management”, Stanza 4, Lines 13–16 (Stanza 30, Lines 117–120 overall), in “Part Four” of Love & Fame, published at New York by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1970; page 91.