Dragon Tree

I find Dragon Tree at the hardware store, serpentine emerald tongues acid yellow, fresh against smooth orange ceramic.
          I place my prize on the mantle and it is the beating heart of my home. Visitors awe at its vitality, how wonderful, how perfect. How it feeds me.
          I lap its whispering, efflorescent leaves with a quiet tongue, beg for it to grow into me, around me. I sigh as it brings to life what was dormant inside my cells, the shrivelled mitochondria, the relentless folding of deep furrows into my skin.
          Dragon Tree is ambitious and salient, its roots heave against smooth edges, soil deposits erupt onto the honeyed oak beneath the shadows of tarantula processes, new growth knives from twisted limbs.
          Dragon Tree thrives as it yaws my unwavering devotion, and dense foliage blocks the windows and doors, eclipses natural light. I forget there is life beyond this place, beyond the Dragon and the dark.
          Dragon Tree is motionless, its roots firmly established, burrows through crumbling plaster, exposes the brittle lath beneath. I endure the guilt of this stasis, this failure to thrive, unaware of the destruction that piles up in islands around me. I am fixated on Dragon Tree, I delight in the moment I sense a twitch of growth, a miracle, even in this suffocating room, there is proof it can move on its own.
          Once in a while, small brown curls of crocodilian bark shed from its scaled trunk, and I slowly peel them away like wings from a butterfly to reveal the tender, bruised flesh, sap blistering my pale fingers, the surface of my glass paper epithelia flaking like petals.
          Dragon Tree knows that I know its secrets, as witness to its dance, its velvet unfurled across the inners of my thighs as its emerald serpentine tongues lick at my throat and squeeze the pink sacs of my lungs as I am consumed by the ferociousness of its fiery breath.
          I gather my fragile remains and pound them together with blood and spit and fashion a new likeness, flawed yet strong. Good enough to claw through juicy vesicles with tooth, with nail, and mourn a widow’s mourn, and pray for fresh growth, and watch Dragon Tree wilt and wither to crisp brown paper, it crumbles to dust in my clenched fists.

Claire Hampton

3 Questions for Claire

What was your process for creating this work?

I bought a Dragon Tree two years ago which sits next to the television. One evening I realised that it had grown so large it was obscuring the screen. This thing is a constant presence in my everyday life, and yet I hadn’t noticed its growth until it was literally in front of my eyes. It struck me as the perfect metaphor to explore a subject that I find difficult to write about.

What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?

I’m uncomfortable writing directly about being a survivor of emotional abuse. Words often fail me; it is impossible to explain unless experienced. Previous attempts have fallen flat and left me exhausted, yet the desire to tell my story persisted. This piece has been reworked hundreds of times, and in the process, I discovered that it is the only way my story can be told.

What is the significance of this work to you?

I slayed the Dragon.

Claire Hampton is an autistic Writer and Artist from Teesside. Her writing has recently appeared in Streetcake Magazine, Crow & Cross Keys, Janus Literary, Versification, Sledgehammer, The Daily Drunk, The Mark Literary Review, and others.  Her artwork can be found in fine publications such as Pithead Chapel, Wrongdoing, and Full House. Tweets @champtoncreates.

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