by Ken Sanes
Every winter, the people shaped
a large sculpture of the dragon out of ice.
And it was the job of the king
to plunge a blade into an opening
in the underbelly and then saw off the head.
Next, people threw blankets on it
and the children climbed on top,
happily riding the dragon through the air
until it was time for everyone to pound
and pummel it so there was nothing there
except ground covered with ice and snow.
After the deed was done, the adults told stories
about the dragonís life and itís lineage
and about how, when the world was young,
it froze the landscape in a bargain with the giants
to stop them from destroying the world.
Then, eons later, they said,
the dragon was the last of its kind
and, in its bitterness, it maintained the winter
even after the giants had long-since disappeared.
In fact, it might still be winter today
except that, one day, a young girl on a quest
left her mountain village for the wilderness
and was lost in a blinding snowstorm
that no one who is mortal could survive.
And it was on the second night of the storm
that the dragon heard her calling
in his dreams. So he took pity on her --
or maybe he just wanted to get some sleep --
and he warmed the world with his dragon breath,
melting layers of snow and ice.
Then he lifted her up from an expanse of water
and placed her in the open husk of a tree trunk
so she could row back to her mountain home.
And as the adults told this story,
everyone expressed gratitude to the dragon
and lamented its untimely passing
as a chorus of professional mourners
cried out and tore their garments,
pounding the ground with their fists
to express their sense of futility and anger
at the passing of their grand protector.
Finally, the musicians started to play
and everyone danced, crushing
the last pieces of ice from the sculpture
and waving their hands in the air,
loudly singing so the world would hear,
that nothing can challenge our nation and survive
because we will immobilize our enemies
with a blast of freezing fire.