When I ask my student whether the plush creature—it’s tawny brown, after all, with satin wings—is a sphinx, they bow their head, embarrassed. Then they say, It’s a dragon, A copper dragon. Alex is nonbinary. I think of the one hundred million pennies a copper dragon might hoard, the eighty-nine Moscow mule mugs. This is not the first stuffed animal I’ve seen in a college class. An old girlfriend from when I was their age sends me a page from her old journal in which she describes me as too serious: sphinx-like. “But he’s a Leo so he’s supposed to be.” Explains it all. We were in love, as the saying goes, but that was decades ago. Love, such a chimera. After class, Alex thanks me for not teasing about the dragon, says I’m enigmatic, that I sometimes talk in riddles. I want to disagree but don’t. I say nothing. Outside wind blows the dry snow like sand.
Gerry LaFemina is the author of over 20 books, most recently The Pursuit: A Meditation on Happiness (cnf) and Baby Steps in Doomsday Prepping (prose poems), both from Madville Publishing. A Fulbright Specialist in writing and American culture, he’s a professor of English at Frostburg State University, serves as a mentor in Carlow University’s MFA program, and fronts the punk rock quartet, The Downstrokes.