Saturday, July 20, 2024

The Poetry Corner

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By Norah Christianson

Dragonslayer

By Norah Pollard

It was blue and black and moved like a crack
across the baked orange earth.
It ripped towards the palmettos and
colicroot and its fat body
parted the tall grass like a Moses. Was gone.

Four, fussy-thighed, enthralled,
I run up the back steps calling “Snake! Snake!”
He opens the screen door. He scowls out.
He gets the spade from the shed.
I watch while he lopes to where I point,
the silver spade over his shoulder. He screams
“Aaaaaiguh!” and makes a demon face and
brings the snake sticker down and down and down,
grunting, “Uhhhh, Uhhhh, Uhhhh.”
He stomps with his kangaroo boots,
his thin body leaping and stamping.
He snorts, he growls.

He finishes the thing.

He turns and says, “That hairbutted snake
won’t bother you no more,” and walks to
the pignut tree to sit under its dangling mosses
and smoke a cigarette.
My mother calls from the backdoor.
I go to her. “Did he kill the snake?”
“No, momma,” I whisper, “the snake already was gone.”
She laughs and covers her mouth.

I sit on the stoop and puzzle over this man
who is my father,
who wears cowboy boots,
who screams like a cougar,
who dances on invisible snakes.

Well, here’s to all the fathers who understand they must be protectors of their children—even if the protection is not actual but an appearance, a performance of protection, put on for their children so they will not be afraid. And maybe they more often do this just with words. The father says, “Everything’s going to be all right” (even when it might not be), so the children will feel secure and their anxiety allayed. 

Since I lack imagination, my poems come from my bank of memories. “Dragonslayer is a memory from a time when my family lived in Florida (where my father would work during the winters). The poem’s story is true. And trying to figure out what my father was all about, and why he did the things he did, was a fairly constant activity of mine until I turned about 50. Children and parents, parents and children, trying to understand each other through the years—it’s a trip! 

So Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers who maybe we don’t understand, but who keep us safe, and love us.

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