Why Do We Dream of Dragons?

My friend the waitress talked to me
As we were waiting for the aging credit card machine
To give its verdict
As to the availability of my funds

(She’s very young, and nice –
She smiles at me and talks to me as though
I was someone near her age.
She’s also very talented, an artist)

She’s gradually painted all the walls
Of the Mandarin restaurant she works in nights
While taking college classes days

Her latest painting is of the characters
Of the Chinese zodiac, so called
With a rat, an ox, a tiger,
A rabbit, a snake, a horse,
A goat, a monkey, a rooster,
A dog, and a pig, all beautifully

I asked where the dragon was, and she said

I dream of dragons all the time
I think about them in the night
In worlds of distant fantasy
My mind, there, with their wings, takes flight

When I’m at home or school or here
When I am bored, or, when I’m not —
The world of dragons seems more real
To me, than the oneĀ I’ve actually got

The credit card machine spat out
It’s grudging acceptance of my loan
She looked away as she handed it me
To somewhere far away, alone

Why do we dream of dragons, sir?
And leave off only with regret?

To know we still have worlds to see;
And wings to use
That we have not used

Why Do We Dream of Dragons? (2)

the restaurant slow,
my food to go,
and she, behind the counter
so tall, so young,
so sad, it seemed.
i asked her how she’d been.

she smiled as she spoke, but then –

trailed off.

i asked her,
do you need to talk?
and she said
and so we walked around the way.

i don’t know why i trust you, sir.
it’s kind of weird.

i know it is.
it happens, though.
so what’s been wrong?

she looked across the parking lot;
a man was smoking, furtively.
she said

i made a plan
while still in high school.
what i’d learn
and who i’d be.
and i have followed it.
i graduate next may
from university;
and everything has fallen
into line.

but it’s not what you thought?

it’s not.
i feel an emptiness
not tied to anyone or thing.
it’s made me kind of angry.
and people my own age
infuriate me.
at least,
the ones at school.

what do you think you want?

to be in love.
to be admired.
to live a life worth living.

and how’s that going?

not too well.
finding people
who are interested in me
is not that hard.
i can’t seem to avoid them.

have you ever been in love?
if you don’t mind my asking?

oh, yes.
love involves a lot of pain.

yep, that sounds like love alright.
so, what do you do?

the man smoking threw down
his cigarette and
returned to the pizza place
across the parking lot

i don’t know what to do.
that’s the problem.
i don’t like feeling this way.
i had a plan.
i followed it.
i’m supposed to have it all together.

and you feel like having doubt
makes you different from
everyone else you know?

that’s it exactly.
how did i know you’d know?

i’m sort of a
“spirit father”
for you,
i think.

or i’m a spirit daughter for you.
i’ve never actually met
my own father.

well, spirit daughter:
i don’t have answers, or advice.
many of us doubt:
and many of those hide their doubt.
love is indeed painful,
and life is messy and
refuses often to conform to our plans.
do you plan to work as an artist?

but as you said, “plans”.
i will still work here
through school.

well, for what it’s worth,
i’ve seen your work, and
i believe in you.

she looked at me,
her eyes shining,
then stood up, saying
her break was over.
i picked up my to-go order
from the steps where
we’d been sitting.
she said

thank you
spirit father.
i think that helped.