My Father’s Familiar

A dragon, I believe.
Face pearly and luminescent
Like cuttlefish bone.

Strange, since he was Swiss
And didn’t believe in ghosts,
Except perhaps his own.

I’m sure the damn thing
Blew in his ear all his life,
A steamtrain of hot whispers

Searing into his brain,
And convinced of his own royalty
More than anyone else’s.

I could see it sometimes,
Hovering over Father,
Swishing its long tail,

A crown encircling his head,
Sometimes just hanging there
Like a silent stormcloud.

It guided him in the dark
But frequently let him stumble …
The curses as he stubbed his toe

On the corner of the bed
Were enough to curdle the blood
Of any self-respecting dragon,

And my mother never forgave him,
Even after he was long dead,
For leaving the creature to her.

The old thing, now tired of flying
A treble clef of what it once was,
Nested in her hair,

Afraid of the dark,
Afraid of the cold,
Afraid of its own shadow—

Vexed that one day
It would be left alone
To fend for itself

On the wild updrafts
Of turbulence that well up
When you’re left without a home.

—Marc Vincenz