Island of Dragon's Blood

"Shebehon Forest" by Beth Moon 




Dragon’s-Blood Trees

In a dream they once appeared to me,
upright as shaving brushes,
the dragon’s-blood trees
of Socotra Island, off the Horn of Africa,
and here they are again, silver as shadows,
exposing their undersides, a tangle
of arterial branches like the gills
of gigantic mushrooms
or the intricate crinoline skirts
of girls tumbling immodestly onto the grass.
They could be sentient if sessile beings
from another world, but in fact,
they are as earthly as we are,
an everyday part of life for the Socotrans,
though they seem odd to us.
I have heard their red sap serves
as a medicine, a dye, a powerful potion--
altogether too useful for their own good.

Robbi Nester





Shebehon Forest

The dragon’s blood flows slowly from old scars,
gathered in drops, like tears grown crystalline,
crimson for conjuring. Enchantments need
dualities: precise configured words
and earthly wonders: trees that seem to bleed,
whose interwoven branches redesign
our deep conceptions of an ancient past

still with us now, their patterns unsurpassed
by any crafted loom. Note how the long
stems halve and twist, dividing into pairs,
and how their buttressed shelter overgirds
the limestone roots, whose jagged soil bears
no other leaves. What antique cradlesong
could have been sung among these trunks to call

on river gods to quench the firefall:
sunlight reflecting from the garnet-red
bright surfaces, burnished until they gleam
like dragon scales, divided into thirds
as if the landscape of a primal dream
composed of forking rhythms overhead
could be remade beneath these tropic stars?

W.F. Lantry 



Drinking the Dragon’s Blood

After Beth Moon’s “Shade of the Dragon’s Blood Tree”

I slit the trunk
press my mouth
against rough bark
suckle like a babe
gulp in the warmth    
taste the ripeness of sand
tartness of pomegranate
sanguis sanguinis mei
sap of my veins
flowing into dust
rooted through millennia
seeking hidden aquifers
quench my parched
undying thirst

five hundred years
of barren dreams
tinkle of goat’s bells
small hoofs kick dry grass
bleat of early morning
I rise to greet the mist
my head a mass of tangled
limbs and prayers 

Noreen Lawlor




 “Heart of the Dragon” by Beth Moon




I want to rise and go
to Socotra, island
of frankincense and myrrh
and dragon’s blood, and to sit
in the intensely dense umbra
of the dragon’s blood tree
under whose protection its offspring
grow, and to shelter in the innocence
of unwitting things, and to wait
for the branches to branch
into branches that branch,
to wait the years it takes
for the leaves to fall,
for the leaves to simultaneously
replace the fallen.
Cut, the tree exudes
a thick red blood that
binds wounds—if only blood
could heal us
on the mainlands where
the motherless children
shoulder guns, or shake
as they scrape among the ruins,
where there is war and war
and will be more war
world without end.

Judy Kronenfeld





“Heart of the Dragon”

I would walk through the desert
seek the unforgiving shade of flame trees
burn my soles on the stones
warming geckos’ bellies
taunting my thickened tongue
my salted brow incapable of sweat
so desiccated my veins

I would walk through the scrub brush
forget the smells other than bleached dust
that stung my nostrils
and choked my throat
my mind focused on a horizon
that danced to a rhythm
I could not hear, the rabbits
and mice finding water
in a language I could not understand

I would walk through the dunes
until I came to the land
of dragon’s blood trees
welcome wooden parasols
and talismans of currents underneath

I would dig and scratch
with newfound faith in survival
until I found the trickle
until I tasted the rivulet
until I poured sweet drops on my neck
in a baptism
more welcome than my first

Heather Bourbeau





We poets might say: your branches are the dense
web that holds the heavens above us. Or:
your branches plait the air we breathe.
Perhaps we’ll crown you tree of the world
on which we’ll climb to a green
thought, trying to outdo your crown. But oh,
fellow beast-namers, bird-namers, receivers of every
herb that bears seed, of every fruit, negligent
stewards, is this the kind of thinking
that led us down the garden path
in the first place, and out?

Dragon’s blood tree whose ancestors
came before us, who might endure beyond us,
if we don’t annihilate nature before her time,
can I look at you as you,
and not through my greedy eyes
that make you part of my mind?
Can I take you into myself
and let you be yourself,
you through whom red-flashed starlings
dart, whose berries feed them?
Will I cherish you and your kind because
you’re twined with me?
And can that be enough?

Judy Kronenfeld

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