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When myths were young, steam still rose

from caves and deep earth where God

kept them safe for prophets and troubadours.

Dragons were not quite so fearsome then,

their fire-breath keeping stories soft

like an ironworker's blast furnace.

Saints didn't know how to become saints

yet, so it was simpler to perform miracles:

one followed the path with the most heat.

Dragons posed threat only as water grew

silent and surfaced for want of songs

with solid endings to cool their throats.

So, they pierced sweet-voiced maids to their ears,

waiting where familiar streams emerged

cleanest for the soldering touch of holy men.

When George appeared to her in last wavelength

of color serpent eyes can see, ash-covered as she,

neither of them yet knew the true nature of heat:

the dragon's skin was never lacerated

on a wheel of swords to keep from burning;

George never knew what it was to have flame

in the throat so hot words hurl forth

like embers, branding ears with curses

even when they mean hello or help me.

They fell inside each other, nonetheless.

George cupped water in his hands and the dragon

drank until her scales froze into George's flesh.

Beyond stories, dragons still seek deeper endings

and swords get sharper by the day, but truly

a saint has never slain a dragon. He became her.

Crystal Hoffman's poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Arsenic Lobster Anthology, WomenArts Quarterly, Redactions, and Whiskey Island. She is co-editor of Rusted Radishes: The Beirut Literary and Arts Review and an aspiring psychologist. Her chapbook Sulphur Water is forthcoming from Hyacinth Girl Press.
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