The Boncompagni Dragon

The Boncompagni Dragon, by Bartolomeo Passerotti (1529-92). Pen with brown ink, over black chalk. Tobey Collection of Renaissance Drawings, Metropolitan Museum of Art

A gorgon’s head on a swanlike neck,
furred with a middle-aged mane,
the ears two mismatched scimitars
like a hedge about the brain.

Over a show of dental work,
a rug-runner tongue takes a ride.
Above the curved and pointed beak,
the eyes peer cleverly aside.

No forepaws in view, but gaudy wings,
half-bat, half-peacock, dotted eyes,
his S-shaped chest a twelve-ribbed waistcoat
puffed in mock surprise.



Learning to Chronicle Tedium

The slow growth of a moment like a drop
Of water from the tap before it falls,
Or waiting for the number fifteen bus
To reach its wearisome and final stop.
Measuring out the time until he calls.
The fading of a star too far from us.
Just staring out the window at a bird
Who flew away last fall, already dead.
The repetition every hour and day
Of human clockwork all without a word.
A palette of two colors, gray and lead,
The second just a darker shade of gray.
The ripples in a pond after the stone
Has sunk. The thrower now sits still, alone.



David Galef has published over two hundred poems in magazines ranging from Light and Measure to The Yale Review and The Gettysburg Review. He’s also published two poetry volumes, Flaws and Kanji Poems, as well as two chapbooks, Lists and Apocalypses. Unable to stop himself, he’s also written fiction, literary essays, and translation, over a dozen books in all. In real life, he directs the creative writing program at Montclair State University. His website is

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3 Responses

  1. Leo Zoutewelle

    Somehow, I found these poems fascinating, David. Thank you!

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    The second poem has an unusual rhyme scheme of ABC for the first twelve lines (seen as tercets), followed by a final rhyming couplet. It fits in well with the first image of the slow drip of water from a faucet.

  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Both poems are intriguing for very different reasons. I’m assuming the first one is an ekphrastic poem, only I can’t find the image on the net. But, even without the image, this poem conjures a picture before my eyes that makes me smile in delight. I particularly like those ears, “two mismatched scimitars/like a hedge about the brain”, and that “rug-runner tongue” – fun stuff!

    The second poem does the title absolute justice… whether this is a compliment or not is another matter. You have most certainly achieved your goal and that makes me laugh out loud – a good thing, methinks?!


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