What You Get
After St. George and the Dragon (Uccello, ca. 1470)
A storm was coming. I took cover
in the forest. I heard a sound
like cries for help, went farther
into the woods until they ended.
There I saw who – or what –
was calling out. A creature
with wings and long tail wailed.
A boy, in armor, on a white horse,
was poking a long stick into
the creature’s eye. Its jaw dripped
blood. The horse reared up
trying to force the lance shaft
backward, to end the creature’s pain.
Then I saw the girl, watching calmly,
the leash in her left hand,
right hand held out from her waist,
palm up. Her lips were moving
but what she was saying
was lost in the creature’s keening.
The storm arrives full-force.
The scene gets tumbled, spun, then
settles into a different composition.
My mouth is filled with blood, my father’s lance
stabs my eye, he spurs his steed
to drive it deeper. My mother holds the cord
around my throat. Now I can hear her.
“For what you have witnessed, heard,
spoken, thought, and done,
this is what you get, my child.”
The creature enters the woods. The wailing
fades. The sky is blue again,
the cave, forever after, empty.
• • •
Larry Colker (1947-2018) co-hosted the weekly Redondo Poets reading at Coffee Cartel in Redondo Beach, CA. He taught at USC before switching to technical writing for the software industry. His poems have appeared in The Los Angeles Review, RATTLE, Brickbat Revue, Spillway, ONTHEBUS, Solo, Pearl, Cider Press Review, Blue Satellite, and elsewhere in print; online at The Cortland Review, King Log, nthposition, poeticdiversity, and Poetry Super Highway; and in anthologies from Tebot Bach, Valley Contemporary Poets, Arroyo Arts Collective, poeticdiversity, and The Little Joy Open Mic. In 2003 he published his chapbook What the Lizard Knows: New and Selected Poems. In 2005 his poem “The Caterpillars” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2006 he and poet/artist/photographer Danielle Grilli published a joint chapbook, Hunger Crossing. He was the 2006 poetry winner of the California Writers Exchange contest sponsored by Poets & Writers, Inc.