Pleasure-Dragon ~ Part II
So, my draconic friends: For your reading delight, here is the conclusion of the tale of Cynon, the Dragon, and the poet, Marlais, a couple of Welsh souls inextricably attached……(If you missed part one, you can fine it here.)
BECAUSE THE PLEASURE-DRAGON WHISTLES
…He did not ask for my return. I did not offer promises. And yet, for all such lessons learned, we knew we’d see each other again.
And over the next two decades we did – quite often, by Dragonish measure – our paths criss-crossing through highs and lows, through sullen seasons when his pleasures turned more Dalwhinnie than Dragon. True, there were lapses: a fortnight’s absence might roll into a month, into a year, in the wilderness of our swirling worlds. I flew without his path when he traded broadsheet scribblings for literary laurels, Cwmdonkin Park for Covent Garden. It was his time, his orbit wobbling round high London life. I am not an urban Dragon; I would not follow him there. And when the Isle Enchantments convened at Wyre Weyr in the Orkneys to sort our choices for the coming troubles, well, that was a long year’s Dragon business, pure and simple.
Still we were connected. Not that I was at his beck and call. That’s not the Dragon way. I chose to keep Marlais in my life and that was enough. I knew of the swath he cut from the Kardomah to the BBC, from the West End to Penzance. And when the roiling in his Cymraeg blood steered his return to our bosky hills, I was little surprised to find him cross the estuary from my old Carmarthen haunts.
“There’ll be war,” I warned him under the ruined arches of Laugharne Keep. “We can smell it.”
But he shook me off. He was round and happy, with his swanning mate and milk-breathed son and poems to walk through by the mile. He did not want to see the coming darkness, to hear grief soft-padding up the street, to even imagine my absence at end of day. Don’t dare spoil my cardiganed bliss, he begged through brilliant eyes.
So I let him talk instead. Of sex and babies and blue-windowed boat houses. Of darts, draughts, and peat-layered malt. Of musty scholars and blighted critics with tin-tipped ears. Of dreams and tremors. Of owl-light and words….
That day our parting travelled no usual route, sang no intimate litany.
“Just remember to whistle now and then,” I called out, hovering over the castle green, my breath burning like a bush.
“My pleasure!” He smiled, half-masked and cocky-self-sure. “And you – ”
But there would be rare pleasure-whistles heard for years to come.
Tapestried fears hung between us as I veered north to kin and sanctuary. Were I not Dragon-bound by Dragon ways, I would have swept Marlais and his family up into the temporal mists with me, kept them safe through the coming madness. But even Dragons have rules, the ancient harmonies of life and death, which cannot be broken. And though I never gave them voice, they were always understood. My poet knew not to ask for more than was mine to give.
I choose not to talk about the war. Your next war. Your World War Two. You humans having just packed in your quaint superlatives, preferring to list your hostilities in endless series, each longer and bloodier than the one before. Such passion for self-destruction gives the Cosmic Dragon pause. Such blind hatred calls even wise Ddraigs into the fray. Your next war became our war. We led sorties in the Battle of Britain, kept watchful eyes from Anglesey to Cardiff. No one asked us. No one had to.
And I will not talk of the after years when the dead were counted as sands upon the shore and nations rebuilt but did not learn. Of the Dragon losses cutting deep across every Enchantment. Of nestings smashed and hatchlings broken. Of my father, raging in explosive skies. My father slain over Lough Neagh with a fiercesome score of Gaelach Golds.
Dragon plagues on you, you scaleless sods! How many tears would you have us weep for your lunacy?
No, that is out of my tale. I will never speak of that.
Healing takes time. Forgiving takes distance.
For years I licked my wounds and shed death’s stench with my brittle skin. Still, it was not enough. Europe remained poisoned to me, her air toxic to every flick of my tongue. I had to burn myself clean in a landscape ancient and wild. Amongst the Sand Dragons of Dasht-I-Kavir where noble Kur, black and sinuous, once danced in the desert sun.
“Oh, Cynon, I envy you, all wing-wide, catching the flying seasons in your open claws.” Bow-tied and tweeded, Marlais was still round but no longer happy. Fame, family, and spectral friends ghosted round the edges of his mind, each vying for dominion. They would batter him bloody, sure as the Murray boys. “How I long for our tree in Cwmdonkin Park, to climb into her branches and just disappear.”
“America wasn’t enough for you?”
“America. It was shiny and new as a fresh-mint sixpence and paved, coast-to-coast, with distractions. The flesh is weak. It’s complicated.”
“Isn’t it always? My friend, you are a scraggy mortal itching in an ill-fit skin. Come away with me. To exotic worlds beyond your imaginings. We’ll escape to the East, where the land meets a seamless sky and spilt blood and tears filter clean.”
So we went away from rations and rubble, temptations and shades. Two truants running from unkempt memories until, exhausted, we fell into a fragile laugh.
It was an appetizing thought to put down roots in the Salt dunes of Persia. But Marlais would not have it. Though the dry air did his lungs good, he was, at heart, a green-weather type, not a desert-loving Angle like Lawrence of the Seven Pillars. Besides, we both had families, obligations we could not ignore.
Being there was essential, but staying was not an option.
He smelt of Woodbines, whisky, and women. Success had not made him content, children not kept him home.
“Cynon, you must come with me to New York! They love me there. Fall at my feet!We’ll have a sojourn in the Village, a romp round Washington Square. Hobnob with New World Ddraigs – not that I know any. Don’t gruff and chuff and scorch my brows – I had a hell of a job explaining the last time you did that. Besides, you owe me for that trek through God’s dustbin.” His laugh was wanting, his eyes luster-lost.
I should have said no, at least tried to change his restless mind.
The line between us pulled taut. He was right: I did owe him. And perhaps, if I was there, if he’d let me, I could watch over him, make good on my unvoiced pledge to a snow-coated boy.
Magical thinking from a magical being.
New York is no place for Dragons. Hasn’t been, according to my American cousins, since the Lenape were forced west of the Hudson. In autumn of 1953, it was noise and neon, sporadic trees marooned on islands of dog-yellowed grass, concrete fountains passing for pools. True, Central Park is bearable in its manicured way, save for the zoo, rank with imprisoned wildness begging to be free. And the view from atop the Empire State is impressive when the air blows thin enough to see beyond the tip of my tail. I admit I’m even rather fond of Coney Island from afar, and chatting up the Riverside Church gargoyles is always a challenge. But, block for block, London’s a veritable Eden by comparison. Were it not for the Cloisters, I would have been rough-pressed to stay, even for Marlais.
I circled high, watching. He sat on the fountain’s edge in Washington Square, waiting for me. To these smog-burnt Dragon eyes, he was bent and grey as the November sky, immortal longings oozing from every pore.
“You look like death warmed up.”
“And how was your day, Cynon?” He coughed, then lit another cigarette more out of habit than want. “Seriously. Tell me what you’ve done, what you’ve seen. We’ve been here over a fortnight and all that time I’ve been sentenced to work and the demands of people I hardly know. Talk to me, Cynon.” There was a plaintive desire in his voice, a quest for answers just beyond his weary half-pissed grasp.
So I talked. Of the New York I knew. Of the Cloisters’ anachronistic calm and the underground, lusty with Dragon thunder. Of hand-linked lovers, shoulder-huddled against the cold, strolling along the river and earnest, black-clad Hasidim, Yeshiva-bound along Delancey. How kaleidoscopic aromas tickled my nose, all hot-sweet, soft-savory, and urban-foul. How my scales rippled with music in the night: cool Beat, hot Jazz, and the syncopated slap-pat of double-Dutch jumpers in the street.
And I talked. Of Bowery poor and Gramercy rich. Of musky Brooklyn waterfronts and spiky Bronx cheers. Immigrant dreamers and silk-suited thugs. Of Mingus and Monk, de Kooning and Rothko. Of Ginsberg, Berryman, Cunningham, and Cage. Of Ellison, Baldwin, cummings, and words….
For the longest time Marlais stared at me through soot-flaked evening, smoke, more Dragon than man, spewing from his nostrils. Hunching shoulders into tweed, he coughed again. “I was so angry with you, Cynon, all those years ago. When I was a boy, and you came to me, the most wild and wondrous thing! I was so angry when you did not return. When the other boys mocked my pledge to fly, to see town and sea from Dragon heights. So many years, I had to find my Dragon pleasures…elsewhere.
“I swore I’d never forgive you, Cynon. Never. But then you came back, and I did. I am glad of that. Glad of our travels, our twilit trysts. So glad to hear you whistle again. Better than bells.
“I shouldn’t have asked you to come this trip. It was selfish of me.” He looked at his watch, its face safer than Dragon eyes, then stood, unsteady and small. “I must be going. Supper over at Patchin Place, then on….”
“Want a lift?”
“Oh, what an entrancing entrance that would be! Ta, but no. The walk will do me good.” He lied. “Sorry they don’t allow Dragons in the White Horse. I think you’d enjoy the company. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He nodded, backing away towards MacDougal Street, his pale smile a tight, fraying string between us. “You are a poet, Dragon. I should have said it sooner.”
Then he was gone, sucked into the city, step after step, dying of welcome, women, and strangers from whom even I could not protect him.
I waited for him the next day, and the day after that. A near fortnight with no sign, no sound. Then, one day, as I kept vigil atop the Triumphal Arch, I caught his mourning’s inner bells pealing east from St. Luke’s, setting me free.
Promises are tricky things.
It takes time to heal. Distance to forgive. Forgetting, they say, takes a Dragon’s age in flight.
Tomorrow I go north to New Brunswick. I hear there is a Weyr of sea-loving Dragons who surf the deep waters off Gaspe Peninsula. Then on, perhaps, to chill my bones among the Snow Ddraigs of Hudson Bay, or further west to the Rockies….There are so many Dragons in this part of the world, so many new whistle-bards to hear.
I will dance my eternal dance with time and space, until, at length, I return, wing-tipping over Cymraeg hills.
I will find another child, perhaps, who laughs and calls me pleasure.
copyright 2011 Shawn MacKENZIE
Come join in telling Dragon Tales, your best, your worst, your favorites….