A-love-story

What the Dragon Said: a Love Story

by Catherynne M. Valente

So this guy walks into a dragon’s lair
     and he says
why the long tale?
                 HAR HAR BUDDY
says the dragon
                 FUCK YOU.

The dragon’s a classic
the ‘57 Chevy of existential chthonic threats
take in those Christmas colors, those
impervious green scales, sticky candy-red firebreath,
comes standard with a heap of rubylust
goldhuddled treasure.
                 Go ahead.
                 Kick the tires, boy.
                 See how she rides.

Sit down, kid, says the dragon. Diamonds
roll off her back like dandruff.

Oh, you’d rather be called a paladin?
I’d rather be a unicorn.
                 Always thought that
was the better gig. Everyone thinks
you’re innocent. Everyone calls you
pure. And the girls aren’t afraid
they come right up with their little hands out
for you to sniff
like you’re a puppy
and they’re gonna take you home.
They let you put your head right
in their laps.
                 But nobody on this earth
ever got what they wanted. Now

I know what you came for. You want
my body. To hang it up on a nail
over your fireplace. Say to some milk-and-rosewater chica
who lays her head in your lap
look how much it takes
to make me feel like a man.
                 We’re in the dark now, you and me. This is primal
shit right here. Grendel, Smaug, St. George. You’ve been
called up. This is the big game. You don’t have
to make stupid puns. Flash your feathers
like your monkey bravado
can impress. I saw a T-Rex fight a comet
and lose. You’ve
got nothing I want.

Here’s something I bet you don’t know:
     every time someone writes a story about a dragon
a real dragon dies.
                 Something about seeing
and being seen
                 something about mirrors
that old tune about how a photograph
can take your whole soul. At the end
of this poem
                 I’m going to go out like electricity
in an ice storm. I’ve made peace with it.
                 That last blockbuster took out a whole family
                 of Bhutan thunder dragons
living in Latvia
the fumes of their cleargas hoard
hanging on their beards like blue ghosts.

A dragon’s gotta get zen
                 with ephemerality.

You want to cut me up? Chickenscratch my leather
with butcher’s chalk:
cutlets, tenderloin, ribs for the company barbecue,
chuck, chops, brisket, roast.
                 I dig it, I do.
I want to eat everything, too.

When I look at the world
     I see a table.
All those fancy houses, people with degrees, horses and whales,
bankers and Buddha statues
the Pope, astronauts, panda bears and yes, paladins
                 if you let me swallow you whole
                 I’ll call you whatever you want.
Look at it all: waitresses and ice caps and submarines down
at the bottom of the heavy lightless saltdark of the sea
                 Don’t they know they’d be safer
                 inside me?

I could be big for them
     I could hold them all
My belly could be a city
     where everyone was so loved
they wouldn’t need jobs. I could be
the hyperreal
post-scarcity dragonhearted singularity.
     I could eat them
     and feed them
     and eat them
     and feed them.

This is why I don’t get to be a unicorn.
Those ponies have clotted cream and Chanel No. 5 for blood
and they don’t burn up like comets
with love that tastes like starving to death.
     And you, with your standup comedy knightliness,
covering Beowulf’s greatest hits on your tin kazoo,
you can’t begin to think through
     what it takes to fill up a body like this.
It takes everything pretty
and everything true
     and you stick yourself in a cave because
your want is bigger than you.

I just want to be
the size of a galaxy
so I can eat all the stars and gas giants
without them noticing
and getting upset.
Is that so bad?
                 Isn’t that
what love looks like?
                 Isn’t that
what you want, too?

I’ll make you a deal.
     Come close up
stand on my emeraldheart, my sapphireself
the goldpile of my body
     Close enough to smell
everything you’ll never be.

Don’t finish the poem. Not for nothing
is it a snake
that eats her tail
and means eternity. What’s a few verses worth
anyway? Everyone knows
poetry doesn’t sell. Don’t you ever feel
like you’re just
a story someone is telling
about someone like you?
                 I get that. I get you. You and me
we could fit
inside each other. It’s not nihilism
if there’s really no point to anything.

I have a secret
down in the deep of my dark.
All those other kids who wanted me
to call them paladins,
warriors, saints, whose swords had names,
whose bodies were perfect
as moonlight
     they’ve set up a township near my liver
had babies with the maidens they didn’t save
     invented electric lightbulbs
     thought up new holidays.
                             You can have my body
                             just like you wanted.
Or you can keep on fighting dragons
writing dragons
fighting dragons
re-staging that same old Cretaceous deathmatch
you mammals
always win.
                 But hey, hush, come on.
Quit now.
You’ll never fix
that line.
                 I have a forgiveness in me
                 the size of eons
                 and if a dragon’s body is big enough
                 it just looks like the world.
                           
                             Did you know
the earth used to have two moons?

And so, far from being pretentious, semicolons can be positively democratic. To use a semicolon properly can be an act of faith. It’s a way of saying to the reader, who is already holding one bag of groceries, here, I know it’s a lot, but can you take another? And then (in the case of William James) another? And another? And one more? Which sounds, of course, dreadful, and like just the sort of discourtesy a writer ought strenuously to avoid. But the truth is that there can be something wonderful in being festooned in carefully balanced bags; there’s a kind of exquisite tension, a feeling of delicious responsibility, in being so loaded up that you seem to have half a grocery store suspended from your body.
—  Semicolons: A Love Story by Ben Dolnick
Once upon a time there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. And they grew next to each other. And every day the straight tree would look at the crooked tree and he would say, ‘You’re crooked. You’ve always been crooked and you’ll continue to be crooked. But look at me! Look at me!’ said the straight tree. He said, ‘I’m tall and I’m straight.’ And then one day the lumberjacks came into the forest and looked around, and the manager in charge said, ‘Cut all the straight trees.’ And that crooked tree is still there to this day, growing strong and growing strange.
—  Tom Waits, Wristcutters: A Love Story

I Want This…

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True love isn’t always about big romantic gestures.
Sometimes it’s about sympathizing with someone whose tea has gone cold or reading together and sharing a quilt. When two people move in together, it soon becomes apparent that the little things mean an awful lot. The throwaway moments in life become meaningful when you spend them in the company of someone you love.
—  Philippa Rice
4

Screw Coleman. And screw your mom. ‘Cause believe it or not, all that crap that happened to you…made you exactly who you are. And you’re perfect.