St. George of the Bayou (A Poetry Prompt)

My grandfather was larger than life. He was equal parts family patriarch, successful businessman, Louisiana conservationist, charismatic motivational leader, and friend to nearly all who met him.

When I was a young boy, my grandfather, who was known by some as a master story-teller, would sit for hours in an old wooden rocking chair overlooking the bayou. On occasion, he’d pull me into his lap and tell me the grandest stories. But there was none he loved to tell more than the legend of St. George. “Sit in my lap, boy,” he’d say, “and let me tell you about my namesake.” He’d lower his voice to a near whisper and start, “Once upon a time…”

St. George was a war hero during the Crusades of old: a fierce warrior, a leader of men. After his crushing victories, he was overcome with homesickness and set off for home. But somewhere along the way, he passed through a valley where a damsel, clothed in a wedding dress, was bound hand to foot.

“Why have you been left alone in the field?” St. George asked.

The beautiful maid responded, “A terrible dragon torments our village and requires a virgin sacrifice once a year to appease it. I have been chosen to bear the loss.”

No sooner had the words been spoken, the dragon exited a nearby cave, blue blazes reaching heavenward from an upturned roar. St. George, undaunted, charged the beast and thrust his lance upward into the dragon’s cruel heart, issuing a sure and mortal wound. The limp dragon slid down St. George’s lance and came to rest at the foot of the damsel.

St. George, whose tactics for wooing women were legendary, drew his sword and beheaded the dragon. He then unbound the beautiful virgin, assisted her in mounting his steed, and the two rode back to the village, St. George holding the dragon head high upon his entrance. The village was overjoyed, and as a reward, offered him the virgin as his bride. He, of course, accepted their generosity, and she, of course, swooned at the prospect of marriage to such a stately and fearless man.

As I sat in his lap, rocking to the sound of cicada chirps, my grandfather cast the moral of the story in the genteel terms of a southern gentleman. “Slay the dragon, boy,” he’d say. “And you’ll win the girl. Every time.”

But as I grew older, my grandfather teased nuance from the tale, retelling it before congratulating a family member on overcoming some grand obstacle. Swim-meet victories, a cousin’s defeat of cancer, the passing of rigorous professional exams–these were all occasions for the tale of St. George. The story became his calling card of encouragement, and if you, by some stroke of fate, faced insurmountable odds and rose to the occasion, he’d liken you to St. George. “Behold, the dragon slayer!” he’d announce.

My grandfather faced his own dragon in the final days of his life. Cancer and Alzheimer’s stalked him mercilessly. But to the end, he’d look in your eyes and call you St. George. And when at last he closed his eyes, when he stared the dragon down in the valley, I couldn’t help but think it: “Here’s to you, St. George. Go slay the dragon.”

Poetry prompt: Dragons (and other mythical creatures) often serve metaphorical purposes. They remind us of the courage of humankind, how heroes overcome the worst of odds. Today, pen your own poem involving dragons or mythical creatures. Tell a tale of overcoming. Spin a verse of epic proportions.


Tweetspeak’s April Dragons and Creatures Poetry Prompt:

This month’s poetry theme at Tweetspeak is Dragons and Creatures, and we’ll be composing poems epic poems. I’m sure of it. How do you participate?

1. Pick a creature… any creature. Need some ideas? Check out this complete list of mythical creatures. Or listen to our very own Dragons and Creatures playlist.

2.  Compose your own poem about a dragon or creature.

3. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #TSCreatures hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.

4. If you aren’t a Twitter user, leave your poem here in the comment box.

5. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a winning poem and feature it in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.

Last week, Donna Falcone created a poem combining the poetic form of last month’s featured theme, the pantoum, with this month’s dragon theme. In “Heart Unbroken,” she wrote:

blind woman off on a quest
not knowing what she seeks
tho she’ll know it when it’s found
she calls on her inner dragon

not knowing what she seeks
stockpiled deep beneath the earth
she calls on her inner dragon
a dragon, to be her eyes

Visit her website for the rest of the poem. Now, let’s get to down to our own dragon-slaying works.

Photo by  Caden Crawford, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Seth Haines


Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99 — Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In April we’re exploring the poetry theme Dragons and Creatures.

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  1. says

    Seth, I love this story of your grandfather. I love how he found in the tale of St. George a story that could be told and retold. And a story that he lived. Those are the best kinds, aren’t they?

  2. says

    So . . . you’re the second of TSP’s regulars to have a Louisiana history. Very interesting. . . Thanks for this. I like thinking of you as a dragon slayer, Seth. Yeah, it fits.

  3. says

    Here’s my poem (if Looney Tunes characters count as creatures). :)

    For Wile E. Coyote

    In his own name, sarcasm and irony
    were embedded like the way his own head stuck
    right through the edge of
    the cliff he tried crossing
    with all those light-bulb ideas—
    skis on wheels,
    bow with himself as the arrow,
    hot-air balloons stocked with sticks
    of dynamite. Road runner always
    took off with a beep-beep and a puff
    of dust like the one he left at the bottom
    after falling off the edge. Fade out,
    fade in, and he’s still alive to dream up
    another over-complicated contraption
    only to get blown up by his own
    dynamite again. And he could’ve made it
    so much simpler if he realized
    road-runner meat
    won’t satisfy
    after all.

  4. says

    I’m not sure if I’m doing this correctly…

    I did post here but my comments seem to have disappeared!

    I can’t remember all my comments but I did want you to know, Seth, that this story of your grandfather–of how he made the dragon story his calling card, a template for all occasions, reminded me a little of my Dad, who is also “larger than life” and a storyteller.

    Also, I did try to tweet a dragon poem but I’ve never used hashtags before and am now wondering if I messed up. How to know if the intended party (in this case Tweetspeak) receives a tweet?

  5. Marcy Terwilliger says

    Maybe it’s ok to still be old and lost in the land of Dragon’s and Peter Pan. I love pretend with my grandson as he pulls out a round white Tupperware bowl and places it on his head. Let’s go Grandmommy and out the back door we fly on make believe horses with swords you can’t see and we slay the big dragon once we’re finally free. Where do we put him Grandmommy? Let’s drag him over the fence so we huff and puff and finally push him over and our day is complete. He’s green Grandmommy so no one will even notice him, but Lance he may begin to smell. So we ride our horses back to the house and run back in. It’s time for our favorite song and book all done up in green, it’s Puff the Magic Dragon and Lance can’t wait for me to sing. When I look back to those creative days when my grandson always made my day, it always puts a smile on my face. He’s growing up now but I’ll never forget all the adventures we went on and I try to remind him so he’ll never forget. You see I have all my funeral plans laid out, it’s the CD of Peter, Paul & Mary singing our favorite song and that big green book laying out to remember our special times. I enjoyed reading the true story about him and as much as I tried I couldn’t find it but it meant a lot to me as I searched through the dragon site.


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