To Make a Dragon

“To Make a Dragon”

Misty breath-of-clouds, swimming-swift

Briny drops of amber, heavenly blood

Ox-ear, snake-neck, carp-scale and eagle-claw

A thousand sacred pearls, wisdom-shine,

Lotus blossoms piled at lakeside shrine

Red-bright whiskers growing like great trees

Sighs and roars which lift and calm the seas,

stirred about with paper fans, flick-winds.

Opal-eyes, hearts of shaded jade,

Coral crowns, heavy robes of silk,

shimmers in crystal palaces under-wave,

guided river-course, blessing and ward,

warm, thunderous laughter barely heard…

Spring-azure, green, imperial gold

Tints of shadow in glades of sung bamboo

Ringing, shuddering voice of brassy gongs

Sacred rain new-summoned, grateful throngs

Blend them all, etched on temple-roof or blade –

Thus, o friends, are mighty dragons made.

~ Marta Ziemelis. Written in Dubai, copyright March 2012.

The piece above was inspired by Jane Yolen’s lovely poem “The Making of a Unicorn”, from her anthology Here There Be Unicorns, breathtakingly illustrated by David Wilgus (see the relevant page on her website).

I was (and am) fascinated by the poem’s premise, and wished to write something similar about dragons. Originally, my version was to be about dragons as they are known in the West – such as Smaug from The Hobbit, Fafnir from the Volsungasaga, or the Dragon faced by St. George. Breathers of fire, hoarders of treasure, lovers of riddles. Yet when I started writing, the words were clumsy and ideas didn’t flow well. Understanding that I needed to try a different approach, I decided to try writing about Asian dragons instead, which were less familiar to me. So I began reading about Asian dragons, and pages of scribbled notes and a couple of drafts later, I had “To Make a Dragon”.

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