We are not the fire that ignites the Zodiac, but we are the heart of it. Pulsing in midsummer through the hottest days, August at our disposal, our axis, our shift, our anchor, the days before our departure from that which attempts to submerge our flames, alight with the fire of so many storms, the least we could do is release them.
When I think of serendipity, of all of the insignificances for which I paint signs, there is no possible world that exists wherein these visions are not true. I once read that poets are pattern seekers. That we see and feel the rise and fall of everything swarming around us with such perception that it makes it difficult sometimes to know exactly where the poet’s mind begins and the rest of the world ends, or if there is a difference. That we perceive our experiences by layering metaphor upon metaphor upon metaphor, until, at times, if we are not writing it, the metaphor swallows us whole.
In the last few months I dropped back into a pattern that has only ever proved harmful and damaging to me, as if a new ideal plugged into the same algorithm would reap different results. As if care mounted on a promise would not change. As if I, committed to change, did not change at all. As if the betrayal were not mine.
Two nights ago, I dreamed a jovial, round, angelic man, my grandfather’s brother in-law, Bud Perry, long dead, arrived at my house to tell me not be late for my grandfather’s funeral, which was less than 1.5 months ago, and to which my sister and I arrived 3 minutes late. My grandfather appeared in the dream moment’s later to stand next to Bud. He had a twinkle in his eye, and admonished me in the loving way he always did, with a smirk on his face, and so much forgiveness in his heart. As if to say, it’s ok what we did.
My birthday is soon, “…So, I wake each year / on the day of my birth to watch the fire enter the sky // while being chastised by my dead grandfather.”
The poem below, and quoted above, by C. Dale Young, published today by The Academy of American Poets, captures exactly the heart of where I have been, sentimentally, lately. I am the Dragon becoming the Phoenix, extinguishing so much that has mucked up this narrow, singed path forward full of light.
I often joke about my cat, about my native creature a small lion, who lives with me and reminds me not to take everything so seriously, and to take everything seriously. Recently, I joked that my cat and I are not life buddies, because he has nine up on me. But maybe Leos have nine lives too. Maybe that’s how get we get from point A to point B. Maybe that’s how we are the Phoenix ever renewing, and how we are the Dragon, ever protecting and destroying.
Today, at the advent of Leo Season, let the path forward not be one of distraction, or of destruction, but one of carefully lit flames placed on trees that won’t burn to the ground. Let it be like Calcifer in Howl’s Moving Castle, a fuel that doesn’t extinguish or burn out, but eventually builds a home, not unlike the classic children’s book, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (fun feminist note: published in 1939; her married name and copyright name is Virginia Lee Demitrios, her author name remains maiden).
When those of us born under fire find ourselves trapped under the same constraints, under the same patterns of our own self-made containers, or trapped by the same elements, over and over and over again, we must remember:
“There are no paragraphs / wide enough to contain this fire, no stanzas / durable enough to house it.”
And that you, burning, beautiful, furious, magnanimous, scorching, ember, lioness, huntress, hearth seeker, child of the sun, you, heart of the seasons, you—
You are never too much.
BETWEEN THE DRAGON AND THE PHOENIX
by C. Dale Young
Fire in the heart, fire in the sky, the sun just
a smallish smudge resting on the horizon
out beyond the reef that breaks the waves,
fiery sun that waits for no one. I was little more
than a child when my father explained
that the mongrel is stronger than the thoroughbred,
that I was splendidly blended, genetically engineered
for survival. I somehow forgot this, misplaced this,
time eroding my memory as it erodes everything.
But go ask someone else to write a poem about Time.
Out over the bay, the sun is rising, and I am running
out of time. Each and every year, on my birthday,
I wake to watch the sunrise. I am superstitious.
And today, as in years past, it is not my father
but my father’s father who comes to shout at me:
Whether you like it or not, you are a child of fire. You
descend from the Dragon, descend from the Phoenix.
Your blood is older than England, older than Castille.
Year after year, he says the same thing, this old man
dead long before I was born. So, I wake each year
on the day of my birth to watch the fire enter the sky
while being chastised by my dead grandfather.
Despite being a creature of fire, I stay near the water.
Why even try to avoid what can extinguish me?
There are times I can feel the fire flickering inside my frame.
The gulls are quarreling, the palm trees shimmering—
the world keeps spinning on its axis. Some say I have
nine lives. Others think me a machine. Neither is true.
The truth is rarely so conventional. Fire in my heart, fire
in my veins, I write this down for you and watch
as it goes up in flames. There are no paragraphs
wide enough to contain this fire, no stanzas
durable enough to house it. Blood of the Dragon,
blood of the Phoenix, I turn my head slowly
toward the East. I bow and call for another year.
I stand there and demand one more year.
Copyright © 2016 by C. Dale Young. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 22, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.