Charles Sammons

Puff The Magic Dragon - Poem by Charles Sammons

We're on the banks of the Des Moines River
where a daring rescue has just taken place

at 4 o'clock this afternoon
a boating accident took place

a couple, with their 6 year old daughter
on an afternoon outing
had the misfortune
to find themselves
in dire straights

at this time
it's unclear
what has happened
...the parents are missing

I've been told by witnesses
that a man dove into the murky waters
from the Walnut Street bridge

this is some kind of miracle

he's here with us now
the camera pans in on the man
an army blanket wrapped around

sir, can you tell us what happened?
the man reaches into his back pocket
pulls out his soaking wallet
and chuckles as the water drips to the grass

well, I was on the bridge
smoking a cigarette
(thank God for camels)
leaning over the railing
watching the water

and I saw what looked like a little girl
struggling below

does anyone have a cigarette?

I thought... MY GOD
then I stood upon the railing
and dove in

a lit cigarette appears

as I'm stretched out in the air
(this isn't exactly what I had in mind
when I woke up this morning)

I've read:
that when someone jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge
their very first thought is that
they have made a very big mistake
...there's no going back

I'm not sorry
I didn't have a choice
...locked into some strange kind of dance

I hold my breath

as I hit the water
........................................ ................

five foot cymbles CRASH
heralding in a surreal
and wonderful symphony
with muted trumpets welcoming me

all the strings join in giving me strength
for what's ahead

the rest of the brass
plays to give me courage
for I am blind and weak

the distant oboe invites the kettle drums in
to show me the beat of strokes
that I must endure

this symphony was written for me
to be played for me
to be listened to
...only for me

how'd they get music way down here?'s crazy cold
my eyes are closed
and I'm swimming up
I can tell that the light is brighter
the music is pushing me on
holding me in a fantastic bubble
I'm so lucky
I brake the surface
and gasp
and yell at the same time
.......YA! !

the music stops...echoing
...all is quiet
except for the river

I don't see her!
it's time for jammin'
and I swim as hard as I can

where is she?

I think about my friend
who died in my arms
me giving mouth to mouth
when you try to kiss life
into a dead man
it does get your attention

I swim...even harder
...starting to panic

where is she?
gotta find her
gotta save her
no matter what!

there she is! !
just a wish away
only a few feet away

and she goes under
I dive and grab her ass
jerk her straight up

she comes up spitting and coughing
it might be the best sound I've ever heard

she grabs my neck in a death grip
choking me
but I don't mind
she's mine now

I've got you sweetheart
you're safe now
it'll be ok
we're going to swim to the bank
...gonna get outa here

the worst is I think
...only it's just beginning

her blue eyes are as big as the moon
she's in total terror
...has to be one brave little girl to get this far
she holds me tighter



have to pace myself
we're out of the heavy current now

she's too quiet
I have to make sure she's breathing
can't have her going into shock
not NOW

can you sing me a song?
I think it'll help

then I hear the first sound from her:
'Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea'
in perfect pitch
why did she pick this song?
I'd laugh if I could
I have a history with this song!

I'm really getting tired now

'And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee'
here I am in the middle of...
...south of somewhere
and a little girl is serenading me
you can't write this stuff

...stroke hing

two people might die here today
I' m fighting four lead mines
Jesus help me!
there's not much left


I'm on a picnic
with my girl
under an old oak tree
the sky is the purest blue
she's as bratty as ever

I take a mouthfull of water
oh...Jesus m...ple...

we're just ten yards from shore
...just a little more!

a fisherman up ahead
sees our event and jumps in

and he does
can't save us both
that's fine with me

so far it hasn't been such a bad day
glad I had a big breakfast
I'm pretty much numb now
nothing works!

maybe if I arch my back I can float for a while
I really can't feel anything

I think about an old poem of mine
never thought I'd end up this way

...just little more


It's a blue-green ocean
where sea weeds are kings
they reach for you
green fingers slowly dance
trumpet's call in out-reach arms
ribbons of smiles just for you
and they flow in filtered light
back and forth

you're in their world now
of over and under
waving flags
it's quiet...soft swell sounds

and you're sinking

can't swim in this
the cold wraps 'round you

still sinking

you hear a favorite soft song
remember words that you wrote
in your s l e e p
each word and note echoe
this magic deep

drowning in your eyes
slowly in a dream
can't hold my breath anymore
bubbles reach for the sky

I take a breath...
just salt and wet

for a moment it's paradise
I'm with that little girl again
that smile
and holdin' like no other
think about the first time I saw her face

I choke and gag my body wrenches
lightning has struck
frozen water time
arms and feet twist ugly

one last attempt
but it's gurglely
soon to be watered sleep

arms and legs
move in concert
with the sea weed
and all is quiet...again

I'm under water more than half the time now
spitting water like a geiser

It's time for the last breath
...slowing sinking
and I take it

the symphony starts to play again
only this time it's softer and sweeter
still just form me
I'm the only person in the theater
the music is for me alone

When you take your last breath
what does one think about?

could have done it better?
ya, I can accept that

I'm at peace

I hear a scraping sound
tree branches breaking
jabbing me in the ribs

a big ol cottonwood tree
that has fallen into the water
snaggin me lifting me up
I'm sucking the sweet
my face is out of the water

I hear men yelling
hard hands on me
my eyes are still closed
might be dreaming:

we're on a darkened dance floor
I feel her arms around my waist
feel her fingers
she's always trying to lead
we both laugh
...get closer

'Just grab his legs
I've got him here! '

I'm not dreaming
these guys have saved me

the whole time the camera has close-up
on the man's face
and it streams wet on wet
showing no emotion
as if reciting a distant fairy tale

he turns and walks away

this is Jessica Lands...
it's a wonderfull and sad day!
are we off now?
Jesus...I did't get his name!
did anybody get his name?

a small crowd has gathered
and they part as he walks through them
no one says a word
every eye is fixed on him

he doesn't really see them
the blanket slips from his shoulders
...flicks the cigarette away
he's back in the river
with a brave little girl

...and he starts to hum an old tune

Author notes:
Tomorrow the man is going back to that cottonwood
and he's gonna bust off a big branch and take it home.
There WILL be a Christmas this year (the first time in decades) .
This 'tree' will be dressed in old style tinsel and garlanded with
thread-strung popcorn enough to make the finest cake blush with
envy. And colored lights that will light up the whole damned
Below will be a cd by Peter Paul and Mary for a brave little girl
and maybe a brand new wallet...a man needs a wallet. -c

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, December 31, 2011

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