Ed Shacklee : The Wyvern


A kind of dragon without arms, these flying snakes with legs
are blind and weak as kittens when they crack their speckled eggs.
But first the tail grows long and barbed, and then the back grows spikes,
and once it’s grown to fifty feet it eats out when it likes.

Once it’s twice that size, a wyvern’s bigger than its britches.
It steals the neighbors’ silverware, their jewelry, coins, and riches,
but never spends a penny though it grows as rich as Croesus,
and won’t give an allowance to its nephews or its nieces,

who once were weak as kittens, too, but grew up nursing grudges;
they skulk around the wyvern’s lair, to see if uncle budges,
and then attack with flaming breath or monstrous halitosis,
for wyverns will not share a thing except their shared psychosis,

and gladly kill or die themselves to keep the loot they’ve plundered –
that’s why there are so few about, in case you ever wondered.
But if you see a pretty kitten, blind and very weak,
with downy wings upon its back and scales upon its cheek,

you could set out warm cream, then tuck it in with Puss in Boots,
or buff it till it gleams as it outgrows its birthday suits;
or teach it French and Latin, plus the proper way to sit,
or buy a satin hat for it to wear, if one would fit.

You could pretend it’s friendly, like a puppy, although bigger,
and when it’s playing cat and mouse, refuse to pull the trigger;
but soon you’ll be a mouse yourself, and that’s a sticky wicket.
Imply you’re going out for smokes, then buy your one-way ticket:

For there are many states, estates, or states of mind, at least,
where no one’s even heard of such an avaricious beast,
where everyone is kind as cows, the tragic end’s unwritten,
and friends will lend a burlap bag to drown the likely kitten.