The Dragon Burlesque, a dream in three parts



The curtain, heavy, black, velvet, seems to strain under its own weight. The lights dim. A spotlight hangs in the middle of the midnight sky, dangling by an invisible thread.

As the curtains part, the percussionist, dwarfed by the richness of the dark, pounds his mallets of two bulbous timpani drums. if there were walls, they would shake. If there were clouds above, they would rain diamonds. If there was anything other than the vast expanse of time and space, dinosaurs and dragons would romp above and below. It’s the sound of blood moving through veins. Water cutting its way through earth. Air whittling down a mountaintop.

The audience is fat with as many people as there are stars in the sky. Each waits expectantly for the symphony to begin. They stir and mutter, wait and watch until the house lights dim and spotlight turns hot They are itching to deliver their thunderous applause.

There’s not a bad seat in the house.

The timpani stops. The magician appears. The crowd goes crazy.

He’s as you’d expect, and more than you’d ever imagine. He wears his handle bar mustache like a trophy. His white gloves break the fleeting shadows. He claps his hand together to applaud the audience, and as he does, plumes of opalescent dust spill from his palms and form a tiny light, the size of a dime, for all to see.

The light hovers above his open hands, then follows his gestures this way and that, in circles and a wide figure eight. The magician giggles chuckles with delight as the audience oohs and aahs.

The lights flits through the audience and tickles a child’s chin before the magician summons it back with open arms.

“Lady’s and gentlemen,” he says, “boys and girls, today this show is about you.”

With a wave of his golden baton, the violins pull their bows across their string. the horns sound their triumphant cry.

The magician conducts the downbeat of the song of the universe with lunatic grace.



Lights up on a baby boy in his crib. His wide-set eyes are the color of a stormy sea. They will darken with every personal tempest he encounters in his varied life. His lips are broad and sneak into both smiles and frowns with the same profundity of movement, curling neither up nor down, regardless of the inner workings of his mind.

He’s one and starting to walk. Now, he’s two and learning words. Now, he’s five and finally understanding that life is a story meant to be told out loud, that the future is wide open. He begins to dream. His parents, and everyone around him, encourage this, for a brief moment in time.

Fast forward through his teen years, which are a muddle of confusion and neglect. Hope and despair. The urge for freedom, the fear of failure. This is a time when secrets start to form and boy and girls either let them develop into theories, carry them like luggage, or swallow them whole.

Our boy chooses the last and feasts on his secrets as if they are decadent sweets. Since he sees all with his bright eyes, and swallows easily with his wide mouth, he tries other people’s secrets, too. This becomes his secret secret. At age 25, having swallowed so many secrets, he doesn’t know how to stop.

The biggest secret he devours is the weapon of deflection. He learns this secret early and practices it often. If you ask others about themselves, get them talking, stroke their dreams, finesse their goals, you’ll never, ever have to divulge your own. Not a single worry, not a single hope.

He embraces this contradiction, understanding that one can live a generous life without sharing a thing.

He wakes up lonely. He feels that no one knows him. This loneliness pulses with a heart beat all its own. He adventures, lives, learns, swims, runs, plays, but even when there are others are present – laughing, drinking, telling his stories, he’s still alone.

He sprinkles information throughout his life so that attentive friends might catch a piece, but mostly people are consumed by their own secrets and leave his alone.

Those secrets, all those silly secrets, weigh on him like stones.

Most people call 47 middle-age, but for him, it’s not the middle. It’s the end of his life.

At his memorial, those few people who were lucky enough to steal a glimpse of his true essence, with all the secrets stripped away, give him a standing ovation.

Life’s affectations peeled away, he looks the same as everyone else, like a tiny light, the size of a dime.


Con Moto:

After a rousing standing ovation and extemporaneous murmurs of delight, the audience settles in their seats for the last movement of the dream.

There is a cough. Someone opens the wrapper of a lemon drop. The slight stir of anticipation as people shift in their seats.

The magician winks at the cello section and a languid, liquid melody silences the crowd.

The final movement stretches the imaginary membranes that separates one being from another and causes all to re-imagine their lives through a stranger’s vocabulary.

The hostess of the dream (the one and same hostess of this blog) is drawn into her own early memories. She remembers being locked out of her sisters’ rooms, and always trailing behind when they could run and she trailed, toddling. She wonders if these recollections, minute details from the heavily worded story of her life so far, influenced her future.

She falls back to her birth and considers the origin of her given name. Three letters, two syllables. Her eldest sister’s name has nine letters and four syllables. The middle sister, seven letters, three syllables. Legend has it, she was named Amy because her parents wanted her to be able to spell her name by the time she was three.

Perhaps the brevity of her name reflects the simplicity she strives for. It’s a name without secrets, without guile. Sometimes a noun, sometimes a verb, it doesn’t carry the heavy mantle or responsibility of a biblical character or historical figure. It’s clean. Easy. Light.

As the music swells into a sweet spot, her imagination tumbles backwards through time and lands on the majesty of dinosaurs. How sensual it would have been for a mighty being to feel and see the weight and breadth of its tail. What a wild romp the earth witnessed when dinosaurs and dragons ruled the world.



During the next weeks while I’m in Iceland, please enjoy my guest bloggers:

Ann St. Vincent and, if she has time, my good friend JM Randolph.



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