FIRE LOVER, by Karen Bovenmyer

Do I really own you,
Fire lover, woman of dragons?
Gold foil on your breast, your head
Reflecting the heat of the beast under you
Resonating with secret places
Inside your familiar column of flesh
A pulse of heat from head to toe

Like you, dragons mate for life
Accepting just one rider
And your scarlet beast trails
White curls of smoke
As you rush toward death
Mouths open, defying
The inevitability

Another, in cuirass and pauldrons of slate
Brings his obsidian beast
In a downward dive to meet
You in furious dance
My brother, his first duel
You, my lover, your fifteenth
Which explains most of your scars

The shock of your lance biting
Into his thigh, shoves you
Hard against the harness and
I think you’ll fall—I gasp
But the leather holds you tight
To the saddle
My brother’s traces hold as well,
And he is upright, his back straight
The wound not as severe as I feared

You’ve won first strike in
This marriage duel and
Fireworks spark from
The judges’ enclosure
The scrimmage is called
In your favor
Signaling the combatants to
Break apart

But your scarlet beast belches
Frustrated flames as you pull hard
Against the bit, to interrupt
Her bloodlust, risen by the
Scent of his wound
But she is having none of it
And locks her jaws on
The tempting throat of the
Big male turning away
Like you, she cannot resist
An open vulnerability

A plume of shadow issues
From the frightened male
His natural weapon is
Concealment, rather than
Burning fire, unlike you

For a moment I can see neither of you
My brother nor my lover
And then two locked shapes
Fall through the ink cloud
Tumbling over one another
His docile ceremonial mount
Now fighting for life
Teeth and claws slashing

In the confusing, plummeting
Struggle, I cannot at first
Understand what happens
Except the flash of a drawn sword
And then your mount falls away
A crimson streak plummeting
Toward the battlements below

And the obsidian shakes his head,
As though to clear it
And I see my brother fighting him
Leaning forward, diving after you
As your convulsing dragon dies
And you clinging to the saddle
As tightly as you hold your bloody sword

Moments before impact,
When I think all is lost
My brother, like a kingfisher
Plucks his future kinswoman
From her saddle
Trailing blood and chunks of flesh
I can only hope belonged
To your mount
And not you

At our wedding, you wear the sword
You used to kill your best friend
And save my brother’s life
And become a member of our family
But when we are in bed together
Your face quiet and thoughtful
I stroke your dark skin
and wonder if, in these domestic moments
You regret her loss
Like I miss your fire



Karen Bovenmyer earned an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University and serves as the Nonfiction Assistant Editor of Escape Artists’ Mothership Zeta Magazine. She is the 2016 recipient of the Horror Writers Association Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship. Her poems, short stories and novellas appear in more than 40 publications and her first novel, SWIFT FOR THE SUN, an LGBT romantic adventure in 1820s Caribbean, debuted from Dreamspinner Press March 27, 2017.

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