The Dragon Poem

by Racheal O'Riley

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Recorded at Imagine Books and Records

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When I was little I told my biological father
(and I will call him my biological father
because his DNA is the only thing he ever contributed to me)
that I wanted to be a writer
He took a deep breath,
And turned to me, spitting with venomous words:
“well you’re obviously not going to make it”.
He called me little girl
And told me I would never be able to compete with the big boys.
Stephen King, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens,
Tolkien, Poe, Shakespeare, Hemingway.
Of course they were important.
They were male,
And I was not.
Therefore, he was right.
I could never hope to achieve any measure of success
Because I was born with a vagina.
He would give me some credit.
My stories were cute.
Apparently “cute” is the highest compliment a girl can receive
Because he had the audacity to get angry
When I didn’t want my stories to be cute.
I wanted my words to resonate in the hearts
Of those who encountered them
Like an animal
I wanted them to terrify you when you realized their ferocity
And soothe you as they whispered kind words into your soul.
I wanted a voice.
Never mind the fact that there are plenty of female writers
that have received merit:
The Bronte sisters, J.K Rowling, Nelle Harper lee
But all of them hid under male pseudonyms in order to do so.
Do not misunderstand me or label me as a “man hater”
Because this is not true.
I have loved boys and men alike
And I can see their worth in this world.
But no one should have to conceal their identity
Or censor their being
To comfort a society’s ignorance.
A young girl with a passion should not be put on hold
Because a career does not suit them
I was told to be a veterinarian
Because “little girls like animals, right?”
“Little girl”
You used it as an insult.
Did you not know, father
That it was you who forced me into adulthood
Long before I was ready?
Why did you make me feel smaller than I was?
I did not understand how come
My infant brother was called “big boy”
And I was still “little girl”
When I was the tallest in my elementary classroom.
Art was not important to you, but soccer was.
It did not matter that I tripped over my own feet
And my legs were riddled with those black and blue spots
You would have me grow accustomed to as I got older
It did not matter to you because if I learned a sport,
I wouldn’t be too girly.
But kicking a ball around does not balance out your femininity
And it does not activate your masculinity.
My generation grew up being told that we were special snowflakes
And that our individualism was important
To never conform
And yet, I see the teachers and parents that taught us these lessons
Sticking us in these molds
I never wanted to just be girl.
I wanted to be me.
Me; who listened to David Bowie and wore baggy shirts just because she wanted to.
Me; who could never quite tame her hair the right way.
Me; with half-filled journals of poems never to be completed
Me; who devoured books in less than a couple of hours
Me; who wore her heart on her sleeve
Me; who trusted to easily and then not at all
I just wanted to be me.
I had things to say, and I wanted you to hear me.
I was not your dream daughter,
But you were no picnic either.
And maybe if you hadn’t tried so hard to fit me into your mold
I wouldn’t have had to take a different last name before I was even married.
I was never meant to be constricted.
I was meant to yell on highways
And read poems in front of a crowd
I was meant to dance on the line
Of politically correct and rebel girl
Telling me that because I am a not a boy I will never be heard
Will not keep me from speaking as loud as I physically can.
I will be a truth banshee and scream until my throat gets hoarse
And then yell some more
I am not little girl, pink, princess
I am not meek or mild
I do not need to be saved
Because I am a fucking dragon
And your fire cannot harm me.
And why wouldn’t you write about a dragon?
I mean, have you seen them?
Massive in stature, filled with power
I am a dragon
I am massive in stature
And I could rip out your throat with a small flick of my talon
So call me “little girl” again
I dare you.
I’ll show you how big and scary I can be.


released January 20, 2016



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