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Julia Gavrilova - Jellyfish.jpg

Content Warning: death, dark themes

Laura Varnam – Dead Dragon, Deep Dragon

after Beowulf

When they scudded my carcass over the cliff

            (their yammering cries a last death-rattle

                                                 as I pitched sea-soon–)

   For a sigh's space my wings whooped wide

            and time snapped back–

                        sun-struck scales

                                                a bobby dazzler!


                                            in the night's cool joy –


      zip back to the cave before the dawn can clock me


my signature smoke trails

                                             a kite-string

                                                               bobbing back to earth


Water-slap, cold-shock,

                                    I sink, belly-dragging downwards,



                                           a wreck on the whale-road.


This sea-bed is no earth-cave but I'm making do.

Crabs keep track of my scales when the water

winkles them away. Words slough off my spine,

              wæterwyrm    merewif     saespel

shells for curious creatures to snitch inside,

                                    and in the deep quenched

dark, I dream...

Best viewed on desktop, please also find a PDF file available to download here.

Laura Varnam is the Lecturer in Old and Middle English Literature at University College, Oxford. Her poetry is inspired by the medieval texts that she teaches, especially the Old English epic Beowulf. Her poems have been published in Atrium, Crow of Minerva, Dreich, Green Ink Poetry, The Oxford Magazine, and Ink, Sweat & Tears.

Artwork: Jellyfish by Julia Gavrilova

Julia Gavrilova is a printmaker and surface pattern designer who grew up in Russia and now lives in Switzerland. Her creative journey started in middle school and then developed through years into what she is now. Her works are inspired by nature's basic forms, textures and colors.

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