Kelley White

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The Dragon

Whether you're attracted to the history, mythology or pure fantasy of these mysterious creatures, a dragon tattoo can reveal aspects of your true character or serve as a potential warning to those who cross you. Whether you choose a solid black tribal, Asian, Celtic or any of the many other dragon designs, your tattoo will make a powerful statement for the rest of your life.

 Sorry, brother, you’ve made some serious mistakes here: St. George did not fight a Chinese Dragon. No, his was a regular European type, a Wyvern, or worm, with two legs and two wings. Yours, my friend, is a Long, emblem of the Ming Emperor, which, I am sorry to say, does not breathe fire, and though it flies, does so by means of a mystical magic pearl, and consequently lacks wings.

Your artist has taken liberties and put bat wings on your Long, which might be accepted as a rare variant, but otherwise your dragon is traditionally Asian with it antlers, that is, the ‘horns of a deer,’ whiskers protruding from its camel snout, and the ears of an ox. In fact it is clearly Chinese, and thus a benevolent Lord of sea and weather, and generally we would not expect it to engage in combat with a Knight in Shining Armor who, anyway, on your left shoulder seems to be working in a rather cramped space.

Why, this dragon can be controlled simply by capture of his mystic pearl— Haven’t you ever been in Chinatown for the New Year Parade? All that noise, firecrackers and the dragon snapping at heads of lettuce and being lead about by a little boy with a pearl? Yes, I know, you’re going to tell me dragons have scales, and yours does but they are the traditional Chinese dragon’s scales, those of a carp, not those of a snake, and go ahead and tell me St. George’s dragon had a treasure hoard, including pearls, and he also had a captive maiden, who I see in your case is nude and writhing, twining in a sort of rapture, pressed against the monster’s tail, a detail that I don’t associate with either mythology.

Your artist has done a nice job with the Celtic knotted border but that does not belong with either an Anglo-Saxon or need I say an Asian dragon. Yeah, I know, as the catalog says, dragon tattoos, ‘have the advantage of being so fluid that they can conform to and flatter the contours of any part of the body,’ but that does not mean that they can flatter the contours of everybody. Your contours are rather more than I want to think about, especially that ‘contour’ where the dragon’s tail disappears below your belt.

But, sonny, here’s your biggest mistake—your Dragon has five claws. You should know that as a member of the general public you are only allowed three on your dragon. Five is reserved only for the emperor—improper use of claw number, and, oh no, you’ve chosen a completely gold five-clawed dragon, and both improper use of claw number and/or color is considered treason, punishable by death. And that’s not just your own execution, there goes your entire clan.

The Swastika

He knows nothing about Hitler
or World War II but he knows
all about Jews. He met one
when he was fourteen. She was
a social worker and she was really
nice but that doesn’t prove a thing.
They have money and he doesn’t.
He’s a Ward of the State and the State’s
full of hate. And there was his third
grade teacher. Come to think of it
she was Jewish. And she never told
on him when he stole that pair
of scissors. OK. So Jews are nice.
But they think they’re so smart
and he’s not. Or he wouldn’t have
got to the Sununu Center. Juvenile
Justice. Or at least not the third
time. He got it there. The swastika.
Let him join the guys with the ink.


Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.