Sometime Sacrifice

It is a clean place in the low countries,

all gleam, gold and azure between framing

cliffs, water-smooth reflection of white

town walls, sea-blue church spires, billow

clouds and distant in-sailing fleet.


What price, this peace?

What price, these burghers trotting

staid on horseback, wimpled wife

with her back to the half-door?

What price, the wide-open gates

and stream of people wending

curving path to crowning castle?


On the near green hill is violence.

It is a lonely scene, above the town,

screened from worthy citizens’ view.

If they looked up, they might catch

a glint of sun on armor or downstabbed

spear. They don’t look up.


The dragon is also blue and gold,

another part of the landscape.

Did he once come looming, blocking

the sun or kindling in the last glory

of sunset? Did they deliberate long,

in cliff-top towers, on the appropriate



The princess prays but does not look

afraid. The knight dispassionately

does his duty, only his streaming

crimson sleeves a hint of where

this will end.


It is a clean town on the sea,

and for this the dragon must die.

The idyllic day continues unruffled,

like the water.


 Inspired by We Drink Because We’re Poets: Write about a favorite painting. I was looking at Rogier van der Weyden’s Saint George and the Dragon, painted 1432-1435. You can see it and learn more at the U.S. National Gallery of Art’s website.