“kissing my lips, inhaled my words”

Standard

Dragon Talk
Fleur Adcock

How many years ago now
did we first walk hand in hand –
or hand in claw –
through Alice’s Wonderland,

your favourite training ground,
peopled with a crew
of phantasms – Mock Turtle, Gryphon –
as verbal as you?

Your microphone, kissing my lips,
inhaled my words; the machine
displayed them, printed out
in sentences on a screen.

*

My codependant,
my precious parasite,
my echo, my parrot,
my tolerant slave:

I do the talking;
you do the typing.
Just try a bit harder
to hear what I say!

I wait for you to lash your tail
each time I swear at you.
But no: you listen meekly,
and print ‘fucking moron’.

*

All the come-ons
you transcribed as commas –
how can we conduct a flirtation
in punctuation? –

Particularly when,
money-mad creature,
you spell doom to romance
by writing ‘flotation’.

*

I can’t blame you for homonyms,
but surely after a decade
you could manage the last word
of Cherry Tree ‘Would’?

Context, after all,
is supposed to be your engine.
Or are you being driven
by Humpty Dumpty?

*

I take it amiss
when you mis-hear the names
of my nearest and dearest;
in particular, Beth.

Safer, perhaps, if I say Bethany.
Keep your scary talons
off my great-granddaughter:
don’t call her ‘death’.

*

You know all the diseases
and the pharmaceuticals:
bronchopneumonia,
chloramphenicol

are no trouble to you,
compulsive speller,
hypochondriac,
virtual dealer.

*

You’re hopeless at birds:
can’t get wren into your head –
too tiny, you try to tell me:
it comes out as rain or ring.

Let’s try again: blackbird, osprey,
hen, (much better), kingfisher, hawk,
duckling. But I have to give up
and type Jemima Puddleduck.

*

What am I thinking of,
dragon bird?
How could I forget
that you too have wings?

Fly to me;
let me nuzzle your snout,
whisper orders, trust you
to carry them out.

*

Do I think of you as “he”? –
Beyond male or female;
utterly alien,
yet as close as my breath –

invisible, intangible,
you hover at my lips –
am I going too far?
Are we into theology?

*

Animal, vegetable or mineral?
Who’s playing these games? –
Abstract, with mineral connections
and a snazzy coat of scales.

Gentle dragon, stupid beast,
why do I tease you?
Laughter’s not in your vocabulary:
all you understand are words.

*

Today I saw you cresting the gable
of someone’s roof: a curly monster
smaller than me, but far too large
to hide yourself inside a computer.

They’d painted you red – was that your choice?
But this was only your graven image.
Your private self was at home, waiting
for reincarnation through my voice.

Photo by NGO TUNG on Unsplash

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