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Brigit Pegeen Kelly


The Dragon


The bees came out of the junipers, two small swarms

The size of melons; and golden, too like melons,

They hung next to each other, at the height of a deer’s breast

Above the wet black compost. And because

The light was very bright it was hard to see them,

And harder still to see what hung between them.

A snake hung between them. The bees held up a snake,

Lifting each side of his narrow neck, just below

The pointed head, and in this way, very slowly

They carried the snake through the garden,

The snake’s long body hanging down, its tail dragging

The ground, as if the creature were a criminal

Being escorted to execution or a child king

To the throne. I kept thinking the snake

Might be a hose, held by two ghostly hands,

But the snake was a snake, his body green as the grass

His tail divided, his skin oiled, the way the male member

Is oiled by the female’s juices, the greenness overbright,

The bees gold, the winged serpent moving silently

Through the air. There was something deadly in it,

Or already dead. Something beyond the report

Of  beauty. I laid my face against my arm, and there

It stayed for the length of time it takes two swarms

Of bees to carry a snake through a wide garden,

Past a sleeping swan, past the dead roses nailed

To the wall, past the small pond. And when

I looked up the bees and the snake were gone,

But the garden smelled of broken fruit, and across

the grass a shadow lay for which there was no source,

A narrow plinth dividing the garden, and the air

Was like the air after a fire, or before a storm,

Ungodly still, but full of shapes turning. 




There is a wretched pond in the woods. It lies on the north end of a

piece of land owned by a man who was taken to an institution years

ago. He was a strange man. I only spoke to him once. You can still

find statues of women and stone gods he set up in dark corners of the

woods, and sometimes you can find flowers that have survived the

collapse of the hidden gardens he planted. Once I found a flower

that looked like a human brain growing near a fence, and it took my

breath away. And once I found, among some weeds, a lily white as

snow....No one tends the land now. The fences have fallen and the

deer grown thick, and the pond lies black, the water slowly

thickening, the banks tangled with weeds and grasses. But the pond

was very old even when I first came upon it. Through the trees I

saw the dark water steaming, and smelled something sweet rotting,

and then as I got closer, I saw in the dark water shapes, and the

shapes were golden, and I thought, without really thinking, that I

was looking at the reflections of leaves or of fallen fruit, though

there were no fruit trees near the pond and it was not the season for

fruit. And then I saw that the shapes were moving, and I thought

they moved because I was moving, but when I stood still, still they

moved. And still I had trouble seeing. Though the shapes took on

weight and muscle and definite form, it took my mind a long time

to accept what I saw. The pond was full of ornamental carp, and they

were large, larger than the carp I have seen in museum pools, large

as trumpets, and so gold they were almost yellow. In circles, wide

and small, the plated fish moved, and there were so many of them

they could not be counted, though for a long time I tried to count

them. And I thought of the man who owned the land standing where

I stood. I thought of how years ago in a fit of madness or high faith

he must have planted the fish in the pond, and then forgotten them,

or been taken from them, but still the fish had grown and still they

thrived, until they were many, and their bodies were fast and bright

as brass knuckles or cockscombs. I tore pieces of my bread and

threw them at the carp, and the carp leaped, as I have not seen carp

do before, and they fought each other for the bread, and they were

not like fish but like gulls or wolves, biting and leaping. Again and

again, I threw the bread. Again and again, the fish leaped and

wrestled. And below them, below the leaping fish, near the bottom

of the pond, something slowly circled, a giant form that never rose

to the bait and never came fully into view, but moved patiently in

and out of the murky shadows, out and in. I watched that form, and

after the bread was gone and after the golden fish had again grown

quiet, my mind at last constructed a shape for it, and I saw for the

space of one moment or two with perfect clarity, as if I held the

heavy creature in my hands, the tarnished body of an ancient carp.

A thing both fragrant and foul. A lily and a man’s brain bound

together in one body. And then the fish was gone. He turned and

the shadows closed around him. The water grew blacker, and the

steam rose from it, and the golden carp held still, still uncountable.

And softly they burned, themselves like flowers, or like fruit blown

down in an abandoned garden.


                        -from The Orchard