The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “Call Her by Her Name” by Bianca Spriggs


“The Quiet One”

after “Bloodchild” by Octavia E. Butler

. . . it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them
— Ursula K. Le Guin, “A Wizard of Earthsea”

When she first arrives you barely notice
the elevation in temperature,
because that could be anything,
maybe leftover steam- mist
from your shower
and not the benign smoke
from two armored nostrils.

If your eyes are old enough, a glimmer
of almost invisible iridescent scales
will catch the fluorescents when she shifts
her haunches to accommodate
your replacing the toilet paper roll
or a reach into the medicine cabinet
for eyedrops—there, when you close
the mirrored door you might glimpse
the flare of her opalescent eye,
accompanied by the scent of something
that reminds you pleasantly of burning leaves,
or, if she’s in a foul mood, of burnt hair.

There used to be a time when a dragon
could appear in all her opulence
showing off the infernal nature
of her maw to thrill a body into submission.
If she fancied your build
and the way you said her name,
she might hypnotize you
until you slumbered standing upright.
She’d let you live so she could sow
her seed—her most vulnerable and most precious
thing—into your warm, soft belly for safekeeping.

Later, much later, she’d return, show up sudden
as midnight to a moonlit reveler,
open you up right there, in your sacral chakra’s seam
and deliver an infant dragon tangled in your entrails
into the world, to enjoy its first fresh meal,
yet throbbing with the soursweet tang of life.

Now, the dragons have all outlived
the usefulness of their etymology.
They are so old, they have learned to hide
in the light so they may find a body
that doesn’t tend to stray too far,
a body that likes to settle into its home
as though just beneath the plumbing
there lies buried a hidden horde of gold,
as familiar as bone.

She will wait for you first to notice her,
then to realize you’ve not mistaken a scale
or hooked tooth for shadow,
her veiny fabric of wing, curved talons,
and barbed tail for apparition or fatigue.
Because when you’ve finally, finally
seen her for what she is,
her whole hungry length snaking
from the plunger up to the shower-head,
a foreleg resting behind the faucet
nudging the hand soap against the toothpaste,
you will find you are unable to remember
a time when she was not always there.

This selection comes from Bianca Spriggs’ poetry collection Call Her by Her Name, available now from Northwestern University Press. Purchase your copy here.

Bianca Spriggs is an award-winning poet and multidisciplinary artist from Lexington, Kentucky, The author of four collections of poetry, most recently, Call Her by Her Name (Northwestern University Press) and the forthcoming The Galaxy Is a Dance Floor (Argos Books). She is the managing editor for pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture and poetry editor for Apex Magazine. You can learn more about her work here:

Staci R. Schoenfeld is a recipient of 2015 NEA Fellowship for Poetry, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and Albee Foundation. She is a PhD student at University of South Dakota, assistant editor for poetry at South Dakota Review, and an assistant editor at Sundress Publications. Recent and forthcoming publications include poems in Mid-American Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Room Magazine, fiction in Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, and non-fiction in The Manifest Station.


Leave a Reply