Lightning Dragons

By Kate Gaskin

It’s a terrible thing to say,
         but imagining my son’s death
                  comes as naturally to me

as watching a cat trot off
         with a bird clenched in its jaws.
                  Today, there is a crushed

cedar waxwing in the street,
         its golden tail feathers splayed,
                  the red cherry of its chest

popped open like a mouth.
         I found it on my run and thought
                  how impossible it is

to be so small, so easily undone.
         This boy of mine runs
                  away from me into busy streets.

A museum’s noisy crowd
         swallows him whole. At school
                  he cannot sit still or listen.

Once, his teacher said he threatened
         another child with the sharp end
                  of a pencil. I did not

believe her, but what I believe
         will not keep him safe
                  from how others

inevitably perceive him,
         and so I imagine
                  what it would be like to lose him

as he tells me about dragons,
         how there are four types:
                  sun dragons, moon dragons,

rain dragons, and, his favorite,
         lightning dragons that hatch
                  from eggs that erupt

in shocks of electromagnetic
         radiation. See them flying now?
                  He points to the night sky,

its feathery moon and stars
         like puncture wounds, while above us
                  heat lightning unsettles

                                 the dark.


Kate Gaskin is the author of Forever War, winner of the Pamet River Prize (YesYes
Books, 2020). Her poems have appeared in journals such as Guernica, Pleiades,
and The Southern Review, and her work has been anthologized in the 2019 Best
American Nonrequired Reading. She has received support from the Sewanee
Writers’ Conference and the Vermont Studio Center.

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