Salamandrine Measure

Ambition beyond his small size,
the salamander dreamt of a hoard
whose vast spillage would fill his eyes
as he scurried beneath grate and board.
Ofttimes his fire-coiled tail fell free
as he flitted fleet-footed therefrom
fierce fireplace and hot-breathed chimney,
wishing to think such his fate to come:
a wish to breathe fire and puff smoke,
to be cobbled thick with scales like stones,
to tower taller than an oak
and to be strong with hard timber bones;
as chimney and cottage so that
wizards and warriors would all fear
to hear him, as he feared the cat
when that sly huntress came stalking near.
And so he thought gold the measure
whereby he would grow to dragon size;
gold wherein he’d lounge in leisure,
knowing himself grown monstrous likewise.
For a mountain of gleaming gold
had a magic to transform all things;
as if magic cauldrons of old
that could transpose paupers into kings.
One day such were his golden dreams
to find mountains of coin to covet
when a man split his pocket seams
and a landslide of coins rained from it.
The salamander gathered fast
the coins to the fireplace, just below
the grate—a mountain thus amassed
where fire and gold could both gleam and glow.
A hoard of gold! A dragon’s den!
He lounged among his golden tender
as if changed by a magician
to a dragon in all his splendor.
And though he was as yet so small
as to be crushed by a careless heel
he felt he towered over all:
he felt how a real dragon must feel.

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