Con the Saxe and Fey the Gael (part 4)

Nor had she given him fair warning, for the choice was not a gift.
In exchange she’d own his soul, he’d lose himself, but more:
whatever he selected would be charged against his people,
who would lack as long as he would live. And the hidden trick,
Fey’s risk, if he declined to choose, would open all her secrets.

Knowing none of this, he paused a second – and that saved him.
She held out the prizes she had summoned up, visible in air,
to tempt him further on – and they were taken from her!
The dark wind and chill that travelled with her master
whipped them away; then her, entire, with a single cry of dread.

The naive young sprite now faced her punishment thrice over,
having revealed herself and then consorted with a mortal,
she’d offered him a fatal choice, which was not hers to give.
Stripped of her gifts, her ragged wings, torn while barely dry,
she was driven into exile – but without mortality’s cold mercy.

Now the man was truly shaken. His homing instinct took him
to his village, quest unfulfilled, desire for it quenched;
his skin broken, open wounds infected by the Other,
dazed, confused, distracted, lacking will and energy
he stumbled into the gate-fire, that cauterised his flesh.

So Con the heedless lived on, in long prosperity, but mocked:
for the lameness in his right leg and his scar, his new mark,
a flaring livid crimson slash, all down his side, the sinister,
from ear and jaw down chest and arm to groin and thigh.
Rooted in the soil, the kelpie’s words forgotten, the haunted man remained.


Con the Saxe and Fey the Gael (part 3)

Released, her comely slender demi-curves entranced his eye,
her voice was sibilant and smooth, her accent strange
as, freed at last, implacable and beautiful and shivering,
she turned to him in spite and fear and wonder, asking:
Who are you? Who dares come here? On a full moon!

Con spoke his name, and lineage, insensible in pride;
And who are you? Who gives no gratitude for rescue?
I am Fey, a Gael,
she said – a truth, a lie, in the same breath,
which her magic neither knew nor cared, the morals
of mortal men as closed to her as their designs were open.

So she enticed him on, entrancingly engorged his pride,
seductively she took his life in hand and mouth
and kept herself inviolate, while she swallowed him:
the man, the foolish earthen man, who blindly sought
his pleasure and yet never knew the danger he embraced….

Until at last, satisfied relaxed and spent,
he saw – too late – her eyes unmasked: a clear
fierce shocking radiance brighter than the moon
and redolent of threat more imminent than
the longest sharpest tusks a boar has ever grown….

The spirits flared in her, through her their powers flowed,
but cat-like she played with him, offering a grateful choice of gift:
one dry – a polished silver apple – one wet – liquid crystal water –
unreckoning the game had risk for her as well as him,
for they were neither hers to give; nor did he have to choose;

Con the Saxe and Fey the Gael (part 2)

Though Tyrel the boar was far away that night (ravaging elsewhere),
Con’s luck and fate, his doom, were near: he sensed not saw:
movement flicker in the moonlight: he stared and saw: a horse:
a colt or filly, pure yearling, beautiful and white (or grey),
gazing rapt into a still dark pool, as if reflection lingered there.

He crept closer, struck by awe and dazed by fascination,  until
his farmer’s tread betrayed him and broke her concentration;
startled!  unawares!  she turned and ran from him
revealing her true nature in her surprise and haste:
…. a spirit or a kelpie, a familiar, a magical young changeling.

The solitary man, foolhardy man, forgetful of his purpose, followed her ….
lost her from his sight …. then heard a whinnied cry
echo in a weird and shaded grove, more ancient than he knew,
which chilled him all the same, but, heedlessly and wilfully
Con pushed ahead and grappled through the copse;

And blinked, and looked away, and looked again:
she was transformed:  changed to a faerie, thin and sallow pale,
trapped in a jagged bush that caught and tore her wings.
He pitied her.  He stepped forward.  With care,
Con freed her from the thorns, one by agonising one;

Careless of the cuts his body bore unnoticed,
scratched through living bleeding flesh to bone
by the bush he’d entered step by step, each thorn a barb
inflamed by mistletoe – the fatal plant of older myth –
Con was compassioned by her pain beyond his own.

Con the Saxe and Fey the Gael (part 1)

Once there was a man named Con, a fair-born Saxe,
the only son of Frowh, seventh son of Eorfr, a potent man;
born in easternland, come oversea, swept from the risen sun,
set now on a village edge, a commensal, forbye a market town,
far over on the marches of cold North, uneasy West.

One harvest moon, a full moon, hanging water,
by the light of that full moon, he went alone,
Con strode abroad when canny men were tight abed;
long of stride, far sighted, but not so full of wisdom,
he went at night in hope to track and win his fame.

Hefting his grandfather’s spear, stout and carefully refurbished,
girt with his father’s bright short-bladed sword,
clad in weft and woven cloak against the chill,
fitting to his stern and weathered eyes and field-strong arm,
he stalked abroad at night to prove his name.

He sought a boar, old Tyrel the boar,
wily and mean, stubborn, tusked and strong,
long in teeth and cunning ways,
bristled and grizzled and pungent and sore,
which gorged as if by right on the villagers’ spring crops.

Bold Con the Saxe stole quietly through the gathering trees,
distracted by his plans, until he lost his star ….
…. he paused a while to catch a breath,
protected by his dark-red cloak, he peered around, to realise
perhaps he’d come too far: there may be peril in this wood.

a phrase

a phrase I read, an academic note –
‘absent from the historical record’ – sparked
a resonance:
of ordinary life, and death,
of passing and forgetting
and the eventual futility of knowing,
except to pass it on;

and, while knowing that it’s merely true,
a reaction to the vacuum it implies –
of recognition:
that life is in the moment,
not a mark of failure or despair;
and a claim:
to simple complex joy that rises,
floods, conjoins, moves on.

Sehnsucht ( Saudade )

Empty thoughts: a dry river in the night.
Condemned to forever replay – and enjoy –
a game whose rules are crossed
so we can never win, only hope;
endlessly forgetting the result.
More real than a clear sunrise
on a beautiful cold morning
because it touches us directly;
mere humans and yet more.
We, the godless, and our longing.

Our strange mistress, unkind,
unsentimental, alien and strange,
consumes our fat and leaves us lean,
transfiguring what’s left,
transformed in her devotion,
until at last we’re bones,
transfixed by our desires;
committed to that most elusive of ideas,
in which, in truth,
we had no choice but to believe.

A futile longing, for some thing unknown,
someone half-glimpsed, disguised,
never possessed, only borrowed, perhaps hired.
How can this feel so much was lost?
What way is there to prove this concept?

(originally published in a different version, January 2013)

London Unveiled

[Now with the correct link!!  So embarrassing….]

This is an amazing blog – also on WordPress – that I stumbled across today.
If you’re visiting London, or even if you live there and think you know the city, do have a look at this for descriptions of and links to many, many amazing places which are off the beaten track.  It’s fascinating and I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Museum of the Revolution

Heroes of the Revolution! Martyrs. Comrades. Citizens.

Idle visitors, we came, we saw, and wondered
at a single – standard – flame in memory,
and shabby relics set in spare and dingy rooms,
the stiff and formal typescripts of a forgotten war,

fading photographs in sepia, evoking aging
earnest memories of those who sorely fought
against the unrelenting wicked tyrants
(as captions plainly say, in black and white);

through dirt and hunger, thirst and bloody sweat,
they died for dearly-held ideals (and doctrines,
self-evident but enforced by discipline),
in home-made raids and desperate little actions

(for positions since abandoned, on command);
events that once had meaning, but hold nothing for us now.
Yet their struggles, when you and I were born,
determined why things became the way they are….