Gus the Dragon

by David Neil Menzies

I only escaped the city by a friend's mercy;
the young, jobless suburbanite lured me
with the knowledge of his parents' week-long
absence and speeches about nights in fields gone
by drinking enough to lose one's self in the sky,
and come out anywhere at all with those city
brain cells of mine having died.

So I went for the stars.

Constellations I could not name hung over me,
while my friend and the other suburbanites peed
in the bushes, and their girlfriends hung loosely
around each other discussing never being wooed.
And the fields my friend spoke of were backyards
with glowing pools ignored as if they were the stars
in the sky.

The fourth night, a green-eyed girl stood looking up
in some typical backyard with a pool, and I, touched,
looked on only to be seen by my friend, given two beers
and pushed her way, wishing I had drunkenness to steer
me elsewhere. She refused the beer, but greeted me
and said that they were pretty tonight, and I saw
that, yes, they were, and asked her if she knew any constellations.
Smiling, she pointed to the faintest stars the sky painted
in its picture -- clusters of them: weak, scattered and tame.
"That's Gus," she said. "The crane that thinks he's Draco."
She reminded me of that movie with the talking dragon,
and I realized I'd known one constellation and began laughing.
When she asked what was so funny, I told her I couldn't believe
That I forgot old Draco up there, but to please go on about Gus.

Her father had told her all about Gus when she was little
-- his epic desire to be more than he was.

My friend's parents got back the next day, and he rushed me home,
Asking about 'that girl' with the occasional wink as he drove.
I thought, I'll never see her or Gus again, but I'll see this idiot.
And that he had no idea where she lived just seemed a natural fit.

Back home, the saturated city skies were eerily void, but at least once in a while
I saw someone else looking up, too. I missed the blacks with whites
and those greens with browns, so I sought out a library, thinking, at the least,
that I could demystify the constellations, maybe finally let them sleep
instead of keeping me awake nightly, twinkling behind my eyelids.
I looked up Gus . . .
and found Grus underplayed in a book with just one page for him in dust,
noticeable because I had slid my hand over all the pages on the way there.
Grus was not terribly interesting as the book knew him, and it laid bare
to me the simple thing her father had done for us. It was more than likely
that I'd never see her again, but, for a brief moment, refashioned in me
were the narrow views of some things, and when I closed
that book, I was thinking about all the wild possibilities.

"Gus had changed his name, just once . . . improved it, really, because he knew
that 'Gus' was a much more fitting name to have for that fateful day
when he'd become a dragon."

Copyright © 2003, David Neil Menzies

David Neil Menzies has poetry forthcoming in the Fall 2003 issue of Spire Press and in Listening to the Birth of Crystals, a U.K. anthology of poetry coming out in late fall/early winter.

Editor's note: This poem has been slightly modified since its original publication at the request of the author.

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