Childhood picture books
depicted booming ogres, looming giants, slavering wolves
and my favourite foe, the fire-breathing dragon
with ominous scales and arrow-tipped tail.
Red eyes glowing, jaws agape,
he salivated as he swooped from an ashen sky
anticipating a tasty treat.
Gripped by iron chains
which tightly tied her blue-veined wrists,
a doomed virgin cowered,
writhing to escape a burning demise.
Her ruby lips described refined agitation,
her face haloed by a loose- curled mane which retained
its gracious style despite a wild wind’s whip;
even simple village folk were au fait with fairy-tale fashion
which stated that the bedraggled look was reserved
for bare-footed beggar girls dressed in rags.
Furthermore, only ladies of refinement or station possessed
the required qualifications which enabled one to save a hamlet
or city or kingdom (for a brief month or a season)
by becoming a dragon’s lunch.
These were days of yore, long before women were deemed worthy of learning to read; they knew not the stories, so no maiden expected a knight to arrive just in time to prevent the singeing of her silky tresses, or for the sun to affect a gleeful presence, directing its rays in such a way to make his swash-buckling sword gleam.
The metal-clad hero always triumphed,
gallantly relieving the maiden of her anticipated fate,
leaving the beast beheaded at his clanking feet,
and as I read, I dreamed of being the victor;
valiant slayer of dragons,
benefactor of freedom.
Through the years, I have been thrown
onto many a sacrificial stone.
Now I am old, I know that a steel blade
is not the weapon for me; to evade a killing
I douse the dragon’s flames with ink;
I anaesthetise him with my needled pen of wit;
one by one, I loosen all his teeth.
When he wakes, in seething rage
he snaps his mighty jaw, and grates…
freeing his loosened teeth.
Confused dismay dims his formerly fearsome face
to see them scattered in the filth of his dank cave.
He will live, but is disabled.
©Jane Paterson Basil