Dragon Scales

By Catherine Garbinsky

It started with my stomach. One spot,
hardly noticeable. That’s how it happens.
Slowly, imperceptibly, then all at once.
I scratch thoughtlessly with my long nails, draw blood.
When I remove my shirt I do not recognize the creature underneath.

In the shower I take a stone and scratch
at my skin, red and dry and itching.
I imagine myself a dragon, sloughing off old scales
to reveal soft shimmering skin underneath.
They called it a disease, but I call it a becoming.

I cover my skin in charcoal, the smell of sulfur envelopes me.
I wear long sleeves, try to hide myself, become small,
but the smoke from our fire pit finds me no matter which way I move.
In the morning, I find new scales.

I no longer dread the change.
A dragon’s body inspires fear, yes,
but also awe. Covered in scales, glittering sharp.
When I move my body I imagine wings,
a chest full of fire. I am large and fierce.

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