Smile

Some small creatures, like moths,
are born the color of bark or dead leaves,
so they can eat or avoid being eaten.
How honest is that?

It’s no different
than the way a strategically placed mirror
can make a room seem bigger.
Or how deception and survival align
when I must smile and say I’m fine.

{the dVerse prompt which inspired this poem is the word mirror}

Pay Attention

The voice is ancient and familiar,
belonging to school days,
bouncing off the walls of the gym
like end-of-day announcements
from the principal,
or the bright ping
of a red, rubber four-square ball
entering your zone
when you’re looking the other way.

{Almost a quadrille. I’m counting the hyphenated words as a single word. I knowww …that’s breaking the rules a little, but it’s a poem not algebra, so I hope I’m forgiven. Inspired by a fun prompt from dVerse.}

Today

What does it mean
to stand or not stand?
Who decides justice or mercy?

A sandwich lies on the plate, half-eaten.
A song is half-sung,
A crime half-committed.

Souls rise up from the earth
and from small clay jars on the mantel,
even from the ocean.

Pets also. And cobras.
And circus elephants who ceased
their performances
a half-century ago.

Today is the day of new beginnings,
surely not of endings?

An Uncommon Request

She was serious as she approached the counter. Her voice was soft and low. “I need to know”, she said.  Then, hesitating a little, she asked if I could tell her about the dragon. Her eyes never met mine.

I know dragons, and I know people, but once in a while, they both surprise me.

She entered my shop during the winter slump. It was the week after all the tourists had gone, and the locals were at home preparing for the ill weather. She took a small flask from the shelf and filled it halfway with dragon tears from the spigot in the back.

Dragons don’t cry, making this a rare and expensive item. I watched her. I know every customer by name. She was new.

It was an uncommon request. No one cares about dragons. People think they know everything they need to know about dragons. Most of what they know is wrong, and when you try to tell them differently, they get angry. They stop listening. They walk away and never return.

“This one lived alone, as most do,” I told her. “The tears were extracted while he slept. He was suffering from allergies, which meant a runny nose–and tears.” I found her curiosity refreshing.

“Thank you,” she replied. “I will put these to good use,” she assured me.

I was silent. She continued, still staring somewhere behind my left ear. “Did this dragon have a hoard? He must have. How much were they able to take, seeing that he was sleeping?”

I was beginning to get nervous. Shop owners are sworn to secrecy. Was she a spy? Was this a test?

Something about the way she stared into the empty space behind my head, and the way her eyes were puffed and pinkish around the edges, softened me.

“He had a hoard of books,” I said. I explained how unusual this was, and how unappreciated. Unrewarding for dragon hunters, except for the tears.

She straightened, seemed taller. I wouldn’t dare ask why she needed dragon tears, and it turns out I didn’t have to. She began describing her life. Her loves and her fears. And how the one item she was forbidden to truly enjoy as she wished was a good book.

I had heard of forbidden dancing, forbidden drinking, forbidden love, but I had never heard this in all my years.

But then, no one had heard of dragon tears either. Or a dragon that hoarded books. That was even odder than the tears themselves. Odd, and, to most, disappointing.

”I have been waiting for these a long time.” She smiled. It was a half-smile, but a smile nonetheless.