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The Dragon God's Best Trick

The Dragon God’s Best Trick
by Deborah L. Davitt

In Golosov Ravine, where the twin stones
stood near the sacred spring,
a thousand men on horses
emerged from mist

(breath of the dragon,
chthonic Veles,
rising up from his sacred place)

Apprehended by authorities,
and brought before ministers of the tsar,
they claimed to have been part
of the host of a khan
who’d burned great Moskva
to the ground fifty years before;
cut off from reinforcements,
they took refuge in the ravine,
in the mist that held
a pale green light

(the dragon-god protects his own;
in his long battle against stormy Perun,
sometimes human allies must be secreted away—
sleight-of-hand on the divine scale)

The authorities, baffled, acknowledged
that their weapons were all old,
that their story somehow held true,
and that, as Russia still paid tribute to Crimea
after that long-gone raid,
they could go about their business,
return home,
to where wives and children
had all died of old age in their absence.
And history doesn’t record
where they went next,
those thousand men.

(the dragon in the earth chuckles;
Someday, he’ll bring them forth again—
a thousand men in the right place
at the right time
can topple a sky-god as surely
as they once unseated a tsar,
can unseat even the worst dictators
that Perun has chosen to crown)

So if you pause outside the ravine
and hear distant singing,
rough laugher,
and the tattoo of hoofs
against the earth,
keep moving, puteshestvennik
this is not your place.

* * *

Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Nevada, but currently lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and son. Her poetry has received Rhysling, Dwarf Star, and Pushcart nominations and has appeared in over fifty journals; her short fiction has appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, Flame Tree, Pseudopod, and Escape Pod. For more about her work, including her Edda-Earth novels and her poetry collection, The Gates of Never, please see

Where do you get the ideas for your poems?

Many different places. From science news articles, from striking art and images. For“The Dragon God’s Best Trick,” I happened to be reading about a group of soldiers who were said to have appeared in Golosov Ravine in Moscow under the circumstances described in the poem—they claimed to be from another time, and the people of that time seemingly believed the story. Trying to explain that was how the poem took shape in my head.