11 March 2016

Skazka - A Poem


Once in a fictive

time, in a fabulous


a rider forced his

way across the



hurried to war, but

in the nearing

distance, through the

steppe’s dust- haze,

the dark wood –


warnings nettles –

scrape at his heart:

tighten your saddle –

fear the forest’s

stream –


but the knight

disobeyed. He rode in


winged into a rush

onto the wooded



And leaving the

heights, entering a

withered valley,

passing a forest


the rider crossed a



strayed into a

hollow, tracked

the path that

animals take and

found the forest’s



Deaf to half-

heard warning


he led his

horse to drink.


By the stream, a cave;

facing the cave, a

crossing. Then sulphur

fire suddenly lights the

cave’s entrance,


and through the

crimson steam,

screened from sight, a

distant call

cries to the forest.


Quickening, knight

and horse step

forward toward the

clamour – the rider,

his lance


lowered – until he

sees the dragon –

dragon head,

dragon tail,

dragon scales, dragon jaws.


Dragon-fire lights

a dragon world,

and in the three

rings of

Its tail, a girl is bound.


The snake-tail


whipping the

girl’s arms, her



By odd tradition, as

its prey, a beautiful

girl is married yearly

to the monster in the



A country’s

people pays this


to a dragon to

redeem their

wretched houses.


A dragon binds its

victim’s arms, strangles

its victim’s voice. A

victim’s torture

is a dragon’s pleasure.


With eyes toward

heaven, entreating the

sky, battling his fortune,

the rider

aims his lance.


And centuries of

closed eyelids.

Summits. Clouds.

Rivers, streams,

crossings. Centuries

of eyelids.


The rider has been thrown

his helmet trampled in

the battle – but the horse

faithfully tramples the



Now horse and dragon

carcass lie together on the

sand –

and the unconscious rider,

and the unconscious



Arched light-worlds at

midday. blue and tender.

Who is

the prisoner? A tsarevna?

Princess? The earth’s



From excessive

happiness, excessive tears –

felt inspiration, and

the power of sleep.


And now returning

Life but from a loss

of blood and

strength, only

imprisoned life.


Two hearts battling,

now her heart, now

his; in both, a power


again to flow again in sleep.


Centuries of closed

eyelids. Summits.

Clouds. Rivers,

streams, crossings.

Centuries of eyes.


Translated by Tony Brinkley

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