Come, ever-darkening, shadow-laden night!
Descend! Descend upon this sleeping earth.
Her rocky back grown cold, she cries, “Alight!
Bring me my brother from our nurse’s bed,
For he is grown and ready now to fly!
Fly high, my well-beloved son—Take flight
From out the sabled, hallowed inky sky,
Afire and limned in crimson flames, hot red!”
Hark! his foot drums, beating ever faster,
Trembling with each pulsing of my veins.
Channels deep that course like ancient rivers
As ancient and as new as he and I.
Approaching swift, the dim’s mist fast unfurls
As bowing, kneeling, kissing taloned feet,
It rushes soft along his mirrored scales.
Hear! Hear! His voice is calling, “Time to fly!”
Mine eyes op’ wide in concert with the moon;
The soil resounds the thunder of his voice
Atop the mountains crying out earth’s doom:
“Op’ wide, O Earth, and let thy brother in!”
The darkness of the heavens is his might.
The seven-flamed Spirit is in his mouth.
His weapons are the good, the true, the bright,
And like the Ark he is all pure within.
His breast is armor-plated with uprightness.
His loins are girt with truth of ancient times.
Encircling gold and rubies ring each scale-glass.
His talons long and razor-sharp command.
His mane bears signs of glory and of life.
Twin horns of hope held out to those who yearn,
For that which he will bring is Holy Strife,
An end to demons, devils, and the damned.
For in my brother’s footfall is the terror
Of freedom and of peace that comes from God.
He thrashes holy sinners for their error
In mirth and joy and everlasting song.
Sing out, O Earth, his glory, echo now
His joy, his conflagrating hymn lift up,
As craning low his neck bends down to draw
His sister in the Spirit to his song.
“Serpent-Bird, Fire Pure! Overshadow me!
Embrace me, take me, fulfill me, shape me
According to thy Word; let it be to me,
Your sister-bride here ’neath the vigil sky,
As once in paradise you wed in time
A voice to flesh and bone to breath in song,
Its harmony in one accord with thine.”
I gasp with joy; his vigor draws me nigh.
He draws me ever closer to his presence.
My wings unfold towards Him, my starry Night.
Sparks flash—crack in wondrous iridescence,
Cascades of flame from talons hard as flint.
As talon strikes on talon, claw on claw,
The Spirit in us, all around us flares;
As flame meets flame, and rings of fire flit tall,
Like halo’d saints, alive in their ascent.
Over and under in elliptical waves
The inferno sheaths our draconian frames,
And orange-red ribbons rise as through a maze.
Comes the roar of the Dragon King: “Now play!
Unleash the wilds and the beasts of the air,
White leopard, black raptor, and golden snake
From out their cloister and eyrie and lair!
Release them now, good world, to hunt their prey!”
Now churning in the eddy of our fire
The vanguard of our army starts to march,
O’re fields, ’cross hoary banks and sleeping shire
To the wood that is our ancient hunting ground.
As the vortex of our burning sings like brass,
It catches diverse creatures in its flames:
The oak, the ash, the fir, the blade of frost-grass.
Behold! A rolling-chorale of surging sound!
Onward he soars through the devouring smoke
Of embers rising like incense at dusk;
He surges, my brother, seeking Hell’s ghosts—
His hunger for justice burning hot and high.
We roil, we coil, we revolve in our thirst;
Heat like a holocaust mixes with musk
As two kin Dragons seek their quarry cursed:
Gluttony, Lust, Rage, Envy, Sloth, Greed, Pride.
My brother leading, we look down and see
Cruel shapes around a bonfire dark and vile,
Where Satan leads a foul cacophony,
Like some unholy conductor—or priest,
Who in gilt robes abhors the blessed Host.
He offers to those gathered a false bread
Which cannot sate their hunger for his Ghost:
My brother is their long-desired Feast.
My brother hovers o’er the infernal horde,
His fire burning steady, clear and bright,
While ’neath him swarm the demons of the world,
Their voices raised in horror at his Why.
First comes Asmodeus, high prince of pride.
With each chromatic step he vainly sires
Soul-crushing shame and fear, wolves in sheep’s hide
The vain primordial promise of the lie:
“Stretch forth your hand and eat; you will not die.
Becoming one with Him you will rule all.
Shake off your weary sod, your fleshy thigh,
Share bounteously in the Dragon’s rich reward.
His glory and his might will all be yours,
His knowledge of the good, the bad, the true;
Fear not the reck’ning of the daylight hours,
But godlike live as wonder of the world.”
Adephagia to the circus comes,
Of gluttons Queen, she lives in fear of love.
Its rapture and its sorrow are her crumbs,
Her belly filled with bread instead of God.
And in the impatience of mankind’s souls
Those lacking trust in Him are sorely vexed—
While far above my brother calmly soars,
The eternal rest whom all the angels laud.
In Queen Adephagia’s train, Mammon rides
On a hell-horse hefty with banners high
On his bridle he bears the bonds that tie
Men to my brother with ruby and gold.
He fains fair allegiance to the Dragon Lord
But sells His seraphic glory and buys
Men’s souls in exchange for their lying sword
To kill and bury His bones they have sold.
A chaos of demons comes next in a cloud,
With Beelzebub like a furious child
And his fractious, spitting, bickering crowd
Of smaller demons and noxious fumes
That rise with each bitter, twittering spat.
With him is Legion, a haunted godsip,
Discordant voices abuzz with lies fat,
Juicy and dripping with who sleeps with whom.
Maggots swarm round to feast on his carcase;
Fevered thoughts rise in unholy prayer.
Spider-webbed do-nothings, triggered by rage,
Spew noxious clouds of blasphemous slander—
Aergia and Lyssa, birthed from the same womb,
Joyless and bitter, they hate all who live.
Their children are still-borne, cold in the tomb,
Progeny vile of their hellish commander.
Their song is a dirge, a ceaseless lament.
Woeful and dreary, complaining they sway.
They dance without rhythm, beauty exempt,
Pompous and haughty, no partners in sight.
It’s never their fault, their anger and sloth,
Somebody else always gets in their way.
Baptized in brimstone with no swaddling cloth,
Naked and grim they conduct their blood rite.
Around and around the fire they leap
With deafening screams and atonal cries.
Then out from the din steps the foul-mouthed priest,
That ag’d liturgist well-practiced in sin.
“Pride, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Envy, Sloth, Wrath!
Lift up your hymns to the darkening skies!
Lo! Your Dragon Lord comes with a laugh!
Welcome him now, our diabolical kin!
“Of his compassion and wit have no fear;
He is of hellfire, angelkin to me.
For I am the O.G. exemplar here!
I, the primordial serpentine form,
I, the first cause of the sons’ fall from God,
I, Rahab swam the inaugural sea!
I, his high-priest will give you his blood!
See now his body, come feast on his warmth.”
I look to my brother, expecting his word.
A dense cloud of smoke has covered his scales.
I hear his loud roar—its timbre is wrong,
As if something old has broken in him.
The dancers below look up—and rejoice!
My brother has changed; his armor is black,
While nothing of justice sounds in his voice.
Despairing, I watch my brother descend.
The infernal company stamps its feet;
My brother sets the meter. Protean
In his fleshly form, he joins them in the beat.
Now eagle, now lion, now ox, now man,
A rainbow of hues from purple to red:
Is he monster or angel? Demon or lord?
I followed to hunt, but where has he led?
Is he God’s son—or true kin with this band?
They pet him and bite him, stroke him with knives.
They purr with obsession and snarl with love.
Some hate him, some fear him, some with him strive.
Some covet his beauty; some want him dead.
Others see him as their pathway to fame.
Some promise him riches, some promise aid;
Others want nothing to do with his name;
Some lord their righteousness over his head.
Then over the love-fest Satan calls out:
“Hail, long expected, my brother-in-arms!
We gather here now in glorious rout
To worship your beauty, your wit and sin.
We have here your crown and red-blooded gown.
Come, kneel to me, I will beshroud your form.
Honor and riches and worldly renown
All will be yours at the touch of a pen.”
“Come, stand in our midst, my roguish fair son,
Receive now the blood mark on your forehead.
For you are our shining, much belov’d one.
We will be faithful when others run far.
Serve me, and you will never grow ugly.
Soldiers will love you, and brides quake in fear.
My servants will shod you; now take this key.
Sign on the line: ‘I, the bright Morning Star.’”
The shades smack their lips; their feast is prepared.
Now they compete for a place at the board.
“I’ve known him for years.” “He once talked to me.”
“It’s all pretense, an elaborate fraud.”
“He’s a trickster.” “A grifter.” “A liar.”
“A fool.” “I saw him first.” “He smiled at me.”
“He’s kind.” “He’s mean.” “He had sex with a friar.”
“Did you hear somebody say he was God?!”
Processing in cassocks well-trimmed with lace,
Four demons bear lections precious with sin.
One claims to have witnessed his fall from grace.
Another insists that he gave him voice.
A third complains that he knows not the law.
A fourth would picture him bathing in blood.
All four are ready to carry his pall.
Satan cries out in glee: “Now make your choice!”
“Tell me, my angel, which now do you choose?
All that I have is yours; reach out and take.
You are the master; no way can you lose.
Be the star you are; your glory take back.
Look now to your servants, ready to please,
Jealous and hungry to bow to your will.
They long for your lust and greed to appease.
Of talent and skill, they do not dare lack.”
The demons surge forward, mad to be first.
Bowing and scraping and groveling they worm,
Seeking his substance to slake their blood-thirst.
Offerings they bear: gold, photographs, jewels,
Rumors of contacts and powerful friends;
Perfumes and silks and impudent praises,
Words sweet as honey, but bitter within,
Trinkets, and gadgets, and innumerable tools.
The Dragon looks at them with piercing eyes,
Eyebeams riving their hearts, if hearts they had.
He rakes their thoughts, searches out their desires.
Lays bare their hunger, their loathing and dread.
His mirrored scales reflect their fantasies,
Whatever is in them, virtue or sin.
At the prick of his gaze, they fall to their knees,
Longing to be either living or dead.
Disputing, they vie to be in his grace.
One wants to be first, another the same;
A few feign humility, saving face.
Others insist, “This crowd is too raucous.”
“Shut up,” some hiss. “He belonged to us first.”
“I’ll wait ‘til you die!” one screeched at the fold.
“Why are you yelling? Just do what’s rehearsed;
“We’ve made charts and lists; now let us caucus.”
One stomped his rod: “We are here to serve Him!”
“Fool! I’m here to eat!” his neighbor swiped back—
And received a blow of the rod’s hard stem.
“Don’t swipe at me, you bludgeoning old goat!
You on your hell-horse so mighty and high!”
“I’ll beat you if I desire, you fat cow,
With the dragon’s colors until you die!”
“Take your gold, and go purchase Charon’s boat!”
From ‘round the corner comes a buzzing sound.
Two demons dash to the front of the line,
As if one were chasing the other down.
A foul marriage of Furies and maggots
Are left wrestling in the forsaken trail.
“Faster! Shut up!” the first said to himself.
“I was in front! You should crumble and fall!”
Screamed his competitor, “I’ll eat your guts!”
Down where the Furies and maggots were left
Two squabbling fat sisters struggle to rise.
“Let me up, you witch!” one shrieks out bereft.
“Don’t snap at me, bitch!” the other exclaims.
“I was alone in my walk and my work,
My tom at my breast when you made the choice
What I should bear; like a piece of bad pork
Rotating toward me you haphazardly came!”
“Despicable! Contemptible! Wretched!”
The largest demon snaked through the squabble.
“How do any of you think to be fed?
No wonder I alone am in charge.
Must I always give orders to you fools?
Isn’t it time to fill up my own gut?
Now tremble and quake by my standard rule,
Lest not feasting my stomach you enlarge.”
They rush toward the Dragon at a great pace.
Breast bared, eyes wide, he welcomes their fury
As if they mean not to kill but embrace.
Led by their high-priest, they tear and they feed.
Talons like knives take out chunks of hot flesh;
Hate fuels their rage; sinews snap in their teeth.
Skin is pierced through with the thrust of a flèche;
Blood trickles down in a scarlet-bright bead.
My brother smiles as the talons dig in.
In horror I watch as the demons fight.
The scales from his breast are shattered and dim,
Nothing of comeliness, nothing of joy,
His countenance darkened, his beauty gone.
The demons surround him, tear out his heart.
Gnashing their teeth, they rip flesh from his bones.
Such sweetness they swallow, enough to cloy.
“My brother,” I cry, “don’t do this to me!”
“Please don’t abandon me here in this wild!
We were two shoots of the same loving tree,
But you spurned our Mother and forsook our God.
Your long-ago promise tonight you broke
When hell you embraced and cast me aside.
Fouled, here you lie in the ashes, blood-soaked,
A victim of Hades’ vengeful harsh rod.
“I loved and I prayed, but you toyed with me.
I see now your sweet words were all scorching lies.
Your song was a snow job, from me you flee.
I could have soared with you, but now you’re dead.
Did you call me by name, call me to dance?
The Dragon who lies now in filth and sand
Left my heart bleeding, pierced through with a lance;
Left me an orphan, crying out to be fed.”
One with the demons, I fall on his corpse.
My talons once bright, now covered in blood.
I feast on his entrails without remorse.
“You ignored me! You suck! You are nothing!”
His blood gushes redly from his right side,
A river of crimson, golden and light.
The Earth yawns to receive the blood’s tide—
I hear a small voice: “Why wouldn’t you sing?”
In anguish, it cries: “I brought you all here.
You were meant to get married, make babies,
Have fun! Breathe in the fragrant atmosphere.
Be beautiful, walk, talk, and troll with me.
Delight in the creatures, give them all names.
Get naked, make merry, sing songs of joy!
Here there is wine—music—virtuous games!
Here you were meant to be happy and free!
“But you failed me when I begged you to play;
I asked you for songs, and you returned naught.
You wasted your time in mindless display
Of virtue and status and propriety.
You worried more what the neighbors might think
Than about how to keep measure with me.
You compete for my love, but quit in a blink
When some new idol wins celebrity.
“And you, sister dear,” the voice turns to me.
“I loved you from out of our mother’s womb.
I made you to dance with me for all time.
But you are the worst in your anger and fear.
Beloved, you doubt me when I am fierce.
You chain and constrain me with loving words,
Forgetting that dragons are just in their thirst.
You can’t even hear me when I am near.”
Ashamed, I look up; my brother is there.
He’d been there for eons, biding his time,
Waiting for when I could hear him again.
His body is warm, his breath comforting.
He spreads his wings; his wounds shine like gemstones,
While from his throat bursts a deafening roar:
“Where were you when they ripped flesh from my bones?
Where were you when Satan made himself king?”
The creatures reply: “Here, Lord, singing for you!”
And I realize it was I who was deaf.
The rocks and the trees and the beasts were all true,
Their laughter and joy a blessed refrain.
So lost had I been in the demons’ fall,
Feeding their envy, jealousy, and pride,
I could not even hear my own brother’s call:
“Come, my beloved, come with me to reign!”
Taking wing, I rise in laughter and joy;
I soar between men and my loving God.
My bright eyes sharp for my newest toy,
I revel in the glory of the hunt.
When God gives me food at the proper time,
My talons caress my young and tear prey;
My voice floats on the wind like heavenly chimes;
In the bird’s choir, I am at the forefront.
My scales cast rainbows, my eyes glisten wide;
Serpentine coils whisper across the green grass.
Women embrace me, men long for my sight.
Deadly to some, I give others new life.
My venom cures those who see me with faith.
Shedding one skin, I reveal my true self—
A mirror reflecting demons and wraiths.
My arch-nemesis deceived Adam’s wife.
Leaping and bounding from mountain to sea,
I invite my children to come to the dance.
Mischievous, majestic, a deep mystery—
My fur is soft, but my claws razor sharp.
I guard my cubs with a jealous love.
I sleep but my heart keeps watch for my son
As he gambols and plays like his father above.
I see all perched high on the world’s scarp.
Singing in merry communion, we rise,
Wheeling in circles of heavenly bliss.
The creatures join with us, joyful and wise,
Our heart one in its burning for love of our God.
Creatures and dragons in one burning ring,
Harrowing the sins of hell down below.
Our hymn to our Maker we gladly sing,
Free from the lies of the Devil’s great fraud.
Come, ever-brightening, glory-laden day!
Ascend! Ascend over this waking earth,
That bids farewell to Hell’s ghastly ghost-gray
Demons devoured by my brother’s love song.
Ascend! O ascend, my brother’s brigade!
Rise and remember the Dragon’s great mirth.
Fear not to love him, his fire, and his blade,
God’s joyous warrior and slayer of wrong.
—By Cheryl Butler-Drake and Rachel Fulton Brown
“Risus et bellum! We’ll come out unscathed with f*cking dragons!”