Boyhood Coat of Mail / Reborn Old Man

An Old Man Lies Down With The Lion
by Maj Ragain

reading by James Scofield

reading by John Wright

In an old book
of Zen teaching,
I come now across a note,
written in my own hand,
twenty five years ago.                                              

The lion must slay the dragon.                      
Each scale bears the words,
“Thou shall.” When the dragon
is slain, one is reborn as a child.                        

I was delivered into this world                   
with the dragon’s egg
nestled in my breast.
I cannot remember the day
it emerged from its shell,
first a peep, later a snarl.
I have felt its hunger
since boyhood.
One midnight it moved its lair
to the lower bitter regions of my soul.
It began to feed on
what I feared and prayed against.
Neither of us knows what it guards or why.

Nights, the dragon climbs my rib ladder
to lay its head against my heart, lulled to sleep
by the drumbeat.
It is prisoner to the heavy coat of mail
which no sword can pierce, prisoner
to the weight of idle years,
the taste of sulphur and ash, the bars of bone.
Its every dream beckons the lion,
the great jaws tearing open the soft underbelly,
releasing the dragon from its troth.

The dragon’s death marks my birthday.

Thou shall lie down with the lion.
Thou shall be reborn as an old man.

Boyhood Coat of Mail
oil on linen
18 x 38”

Reborn Old Man
oil on linen
17.25 x 37.75” 

Maj Ragain. Clouds Pile Up in the North: New & Selected Poem Press 53, LLC, Winston-Salem, NC, 2017 p.4

Damen, Jessica & Ragain, Maj, Home To Sargasso Sea-A Long Journey of Loving Collaboration, exhibition catalog, June 1-July 14, 2018, KSU Downtown Gallery, Kent OH, Kent State University School of Art Collection and Galleries and the Wick Poetry Center with support from the Ohio Arts Council. pp 32-33
*The readers read the first version of this poem