Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Dragon Carvings

No, of course we don’t exist, Xi.
We don’t swim, fly, coil, or breathe fire.
We are not your enemies, Xi,
But neither can we heal your wounds.

We are what you wish us to be,
Granted you never get your wish.
We are real, Xi, or we might be.
Now we’re you. Too late to resist.

Without us, you, too, won’t exist.
Examine us. Our lines are loose
But sinuous, resembling waves
Lapping at the shore no one sees.

It’s a trick. Every wave’s a trick,
Xi, pretending to be discrete.
You’ve swallowed us. Can you balance
Without falling for us? The light

Could be us on the cliff that’s cut
By a road you never noticed,
Leading up to heaven knows what.
We’re here for you, Xi. Come with us.


You look a bit like a dragon
Yourself, Xi, your shoulders like wings
Hunched together, your name’s brush strokes
Below them like a curling tail.

Yes, you are part of the carvings,
Or became part once you viewed them.
Well, well. How does it feel to be
A fiction, Xi, a piece of art?

What an ideal viewer, you’ll be,
What an ideal reader, dragon
Among the dragon carvings, Xi,
You, art of self understanding!

This is what you look like—shall we
Describe you to yourself, Xi? Handsome
Lacquered combination, hybrid
Of the two remote traditions,

The one in which being dragon
Means being a joyous being,
And the one in which the dragon
Is the monster to be destroyed!


Listen, Xi, people love dragons.
We’re in a dragon-happy age.
There are no evil dragons now.
The worst ones are adorable,

The best ones are friends to children,
The most fearsome are heroic
Steeds much preferable to horses.
Does this make you uneasy, Xi?

It should. All the pretty dragons,
All the 3D-printed tchotchkes,
And those lovingly hewn from wood
Are no threat to dragon hunters,

But they’re a threat to the dragons
Like you, Xi, who could almost be
A real creature, a thing with needs.
Make sure you don’t have any needs.

Real human beings are hungry
And like their creatures tamed and farmed.
Lack of fear, Xi, is lack of awe.
Next thing you know, they’re eating you.


Why are there dragons, anyway?
Not even gods are as puzzling.
Perhaps something like a dragon
Was inevitable for humans,

To complete imagination’s
Extravagant bestiary,
But a magical flying snake
With claws and gigantic size,

Wicked or helpful, watery
Or breathing fire, was that really
A necessary invention?
Let’s take the dragon as written,

The satanic antagonist,
The jade mount for a phoenix car
Outracing mortality. Xi,
Do you think that maybe you, we,

Are exemplary of the fix
All symbols have always been in,
Not exactly in existence,
Xi, but not quite non-existent?


The non-life of a live idea,
That is not real information,
Xi, that is a tautology,
The symbol that encodes itself

And can only indirectly
Be said to say anything else—
An individual like you, Xi,
A name for a sound, a refrain,

An image with a history
But no established referent,
No desires of its own, breathless,
Lacking in metabolism—

What is such a monstrosity?
Not living, not informative—
Xi! How could we have come to be?
On the temple walls at twilight

In more than one ruined city,
Chimeric shadows in relief
Extend incomprehensible
Talons and wings toward nothing.

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