Gillian Spraggs
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Bestiary I

Wormwood Hill

Gog Magog Hills
Under this low round hill a dragon sleeps.

Once in ten years he turns:
the heavy coils
rattle against the hoard,
the coins scatter, a cup rings out,
a brief fire smoulders.

Over his scales the tree-roots crawl.
The skulls crumble to chalk.

Once in fifty years his thirst will wake him;
he hauls himself out to drink at the pool in the wood.
Oh, the furrow he leaves on the earth, 
the stink of burning.

Curled in his stony hall the dragon dreams.
The small lives squirm; the bones rot into chalk.

Once in three hundred years his hunger rises,
the dragon rises,
the trees by the mound set flaring, the starry sky
scored by a glowing streamer, that wavers, that twists,
that swoops, with scorching breath, on field and fold.
After so long a fast, the meat tastes good.

Curled in his nest of gold, the dragon dreams.

Decades later, the farmers speak of it still:
beasts torn apart, crops blasted. 
They shake their fists at the mound. 
The trees are green.

A woman makes up the fire. Unheard, she murmurs:
‘His flanks were gold as writhing flame, 
his wings like fiery webs. Oh, that was fury dancing,
and a wild brilliance, and a bright guerdon.’
Gillian Spraggs
Published in The Coffee House, Issue Two, Autumn 1999
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© Gillian Spraggs, 1999, 2006
page added to site on 25 February, 2006 | last modified 24 November, 2006