I am a reptilian thing with huge jaws, trying unsuccessfully
to reach an itch between its shoulders: I can't quite twist my neck
so far, and my thrash foams the water and frightens the fish. Hard luck
for the anglers. Remember how the pennies would warm in the sun
until they were drops of fire? You could pitch them in and dive for them
and they almost burned your fingers. Copper, veering to red:
little suns wavering among the green shadowed rocks,
while the water's huge respiration pulled the light
this way and that -- If it's wings growing there, we will need more
than the simple plates that do for a lizard's shoulder blades.
Hence no doubt the itch. We'll need bony ridges for the muscles to grip,
tendons for guy-wires, reciprocating levers for the forelimbs --
It is of course all nonsense about gold and dragons. Gold is insipid,
pale and unlovely under the water, incapable
of oxidation, doomed to be forever itself and never to burn.
It's copper, burning always, burning to peacock blues and greens,
burning to make your heart ache. Copper, answering fiercely to the sun,
to the water, to the air. Copper for the shells already clustering,
pea-sized, in my belly. What else would dragon eggs be made of?
In long years, long after the new webbing of my new grown wings
has extended and dried, after my first exultations in the air,
after I am so used to strength and freedom
that this present weakness is a dream: I will come home to this
cold green dark and shadowed river and lay my drops of fire
in the river mud, to glow and blaze and glitter;
you will need both hands to prise one up, should you
be so unwise, and it will carry heat like the pennies
so long ago, when you were a tow-headed boy
and the river-water made you gasp, and red coins
winked in the sun.