2 poems & a faerie tale

Unspecified Apples

lines at the behest of a bee

 

i bit an apple core in two, to see what it would do;
the crisp flesh spritzed & got sticky on my shoe!
another apple then i chomped with stem on top & hole beneath—
but then an iggly squiggly wiggly worm got squished between my teeth!

self-portrait at 29

 

The Watermelon (draft only—summer 2018 [at 31])

The Watermelon
for Aznek

 

Shadowspill across the flickering Page,
And Sirens guide this trembling Hand
As I scribble the Tale of my Dragonslayer Quest.
Begin it when first I broke with my Self;—
The shattering Bafflement that sent me careening
Into Depths of the Dark Woods, alone and unknown.
But what first caused it? The Shadow Dream
That flooded forth from the Depths of Self
And shattered all Knowing, unhinged and estranged
From all that I once was, and all I held dear.
I almost fled my destiny then, but then she appeared—
Sweet snow-white lady of infinite loveliness,
Infinitely gentle, who in her devastating beauty
Held me rock-steady through moments of terrible fear.
She saw me off at dawn to the edge of civilization,
And as we parted ways, two gifts she gave to me
Specially chosen to aid me on my quest:
The first was a hatchet, newly forged
And sharpened with magic, impossible to dull,
Yet inlaid with charms, to keep who wields it safe,
With two beautiful shells inlaid in the carven grip;
And second: a length of magic thread,
Snow-white and woven with infinite care
Into a beautiful ball, stronger than steel
Yet softer than marten or arctic fox.
My spirits grew light to carry these trinkets,
And I stepped forth, from crumbling urban ruins
To follow the path that destiny laid before me;
And like a little yellow and purple flower sprouting
From cracks in crumbling stone, stem trembling in the wind,
Hope clung to my heart as I embarked on my incredible quest.

The sun came over the world’s rim just as I began,
Sunrise of the vernal equinox, with silver hoop
Of the new moon almost visible behind the burning orb.
Afoot and light-hearted I set forth at such a pace
That when I turned back to glimpse the jungles of twisted steel
And concrete overpasses of broken stone,
The ruins were scarcely a speck on the horizon.
Through bright sunlight, down along the creek
And over the hills, through sun-drenched meadows
Of flowers and butterfly-bees, through valleys
And then across the sweeping tracts of open land—
All this way I followed the path,
But who first trod it into being?
Then over a slight rise, the land fell away
And a blanket of treetops, like a dark coat of fur
Spread out before me. Soon I reached the
Edge of the enchanted forest, rarely entered,
Deep with shadows and old as human sorrow,
Into whose dark depths the path before me vanished.
But there at the edge of the ominous treeline,
A triple-trunked birch grew from the center of the path
With bark that peeled like ashes and snow,
And here I anchored the magic thread,
Looping the loose end into a figure-8
With long tail I wrapped around the strong trunks
Then followed through and doubled tight the knot,
Unbreakable, twice or thrice I tugged to prove; and then,
Unreeling the thread behind me as I went on,
Into the dark woods I plunged.

Midway through our afternoon,
The forest grew dense around me, and the path
petered out into the chaos of many ways.
The muffled light, speckled with emerald patternings
Played tricks with my eyes. The shadows too;
Around me the wood stood thick and firm,
The forest enchanted with ancient spells
And heavy with presence, uncanny foreboding
Twisted my gut and my stomach clenched
With a shock of that primordial fear of being lost
That a traveler feels, even when he carries a magic thread
And suddenly I was overcome with dark despair—
How close I came to abandoning my quest!
Then behind me I heard a buzzing sound,
Soft at first; then louder and louder
With every step I took—I turned and saw
Only the deep dark forest and a wobbling bloom.
Well, I gave the thread a gentle squeeze,
And into me flooded a burst of warmth;
Flushed with love and angelic remembrance,
And filled with courage, I pressed on into the gloom.
The forest here grew dense with pine,
And thick with underbrush, tangling briars.
Soon I noticed the ground began to slope
Gently down, and I felt myself compelled
To continue on, as if drawn forth
By the very thing I sought. Til over a slight rise,
I came to the edge of a great river, dark and silent.
On the abandoned bank lay a raft of logs
Lashed with vines and beached well; this I sent
Halfway into the dark waters, and climbed aboard,
Though it seemed hardly to settle beneath my weight.
Easy enough to cross, for no swift current,
And I thought to navigate with a long wooden pole,
But in fact the raft seemed almost to drift
Of its own accord to the distant bank
Upon which my own will was set. I beached the thing
And crawled upon the dry land; over the dark river
Held the thread suspended, quivering, agleam in the gloom.
Then ahead I turned; and a shock so bad
That I nearly swooned! For I stood face to face
With a ghastly visage, grotesquely snarling
With terrible fangs and grimace of anger,
Fearsome gargoyle carved of stone.
One stood on either side of the timeless gate,
A rounded archway of heavy blocks
Cracked yet held fast, and draped with ivy,
For I stood at the edge of an ancient labyrinth
With shattered walls of crumbling stone,
Covered with moss and overgrown,
That lay here ruined, deep inside the forest.
On a leaf of ivy, I spotted a little bee
The sight of whom for some reason cheered me greatly.
Etched over the entry, these immortal words:

« ἀγεωμέτρητος μηδεὶς εἰσίτω »

I smiled at that, and passed beneath
With infinite care, to keep the thread from snagging
On some rough edge, though I knew it could never be broken.
Strangely queasy I felt as I passed through the gate,
But the feeling passed; and what lay before me
Snatched my breath away. For piles of ruined stone
Lay littered across the ground, as far as the eye could see
Through the dense woods, amid huge trees
That dangled with tendrils of graygreen moss.
At first the ruins rose no higher than my knees,
But grew more intact the deeper I penetrated,
And I passed through that way so swiftly
That the walls seemed to grow up around me,
Until I found myself deep in the ancient maze
Perhaps even older than the forest itself,
For in some places the trees were growing up
Straight through the heaps of broken stone;
Thick roots hung down and clung to the walls.
An unaccountable euphoria gripped me, as I passed
Through the labyrinth in the woods, incredible mystery
And I held in my hands that snow-white thread,
Lifeline of a lonely traveler, for as I walked
I unwound the strand behind me; and had no fears
Of hungry crows or meddlesome squirrels
Eating up a trail so carefully laid—
The hazard of breadcrumbs, thoroughly known
To be far less effective than magic thread.
Round and round the corridors I sped,
And I made up a little song in my head—
Down the long slope then right right left,
Left and then right again, straight ahead down,
Through the archway and past the stone mound,
Then round and round the merry go round;
I hummed this to myself and memorized my little tune,
Just another failsafe in case of the worst;
This way and that way the labyrinth turned.
So beguiled I was, so intrigued beyond wonder
By the mysterious stone walls, the tangling roots;
So enchanted I grew that I failed to perceive
The way the ancient treetrunks began to creak and groan
As a stormwind rose, moaning with humanoid grief.
Then a raven fell across the charcoal sky on wild wings,
And I began to rush through, reeling out the line behind me.
A black rumbling cracked across the ominous sky,
Just as I broke through into a square-shaped clearing
Bounded by stone walls, with scattered strands of trees.
In the center of the clearing stood a lone wooden shack;
Ripples of cloudy light stroked the decrepit roof.
I ran to the door and cried out, pounding,
But my voice was drowned out by the rising gale.
I rattled it on its hinges, but a padlock held fast
For no reason I could see, so I smashed it with a stone—
Then I saw a key hidden where the stone was—woops!
But no time to wait for heavenly aid.
I flung the heavy door wide and leapt inside
Just as the rain came with terrible rage; then
I slammed the door on the fingers of the wind.

O, wild the storm! And what madness the fury!
The whole shack shook and shaked and quaked,
And I crept and I wept and I trembled on the floor.
The jagged light, and the thunderboom burst
And the howls and wails—of the wind, or my self?
Then a lull in the storm, and I glanced around the place.
Specks of dust swam in the stormlight pouring in
Through a dirty window, and I saw the dusky room
Was filled with cobwebs and shadowy bric-a-brac,
Stone hearth in one wall, and a raised stone bed,
In the center of the room, large and round
And filled with pungent earth, as if to plant
Some growing thing. I shrugged off my traveler’s cloak,
But then again the rain came, ravaging the roof,
And as a sailor caught in wild gale, helpless to keep his craft
From dashing upon the rocks, will only cling to the mast
And send up prayers for his deliverance, so I clung
To that bed of earth! Three sweet tears I shed
Into the soil, then rocked myself in agony and fear.
The storm passed quickly though, and when the rains paled
I donned my cloak and heaved open the door
Upon the glittering afterstorm. The forest steamed
In that eerie glow, the whole clearing drenched in golden light;
Well, I gave the thread a gentle squeeze,
And into me flooded a burst of warmth;
The loose end had trailed out the door into the storm
But I was never afraid of it snapping, because it was a magic thread.
Then the light faded, and I made ready to pass the night,
Curled safe into a ball on the floor like a feral creature,
Soft comfort of the thread tied around my little finger.
Then a late rain fell, filling my dreams with rainfall,
And I lost myself into the merciful oblivion.

I woke to the light of dawn, flooding the room
And felt lighter at heart than I’ve in many a moon.
Directly in the center of the raised stone bed,
A little yellow and purple flower had sprouted overnight.
Still the magic thread was tied around my pinky,
And I leapt to my feet and flung open the door
Upon the dawn world, newly formed
As if creation had only just occurred.
Emerald dew clung to every leaf and petal,
And little birds fell through patterns of light, and
Hopped through the grasses, scavenging seed.
There at the threshold I paused, and stretched,
And I gave the thread a gentle squeeze,
And into me flooded a burst of warmth;
Flushed with love and angelic remembrance,
I stepped forth into the morning world. Bright sunlight
Flooded the clearing, mostly open space
With clusters of trees; toward one wall of the labyrinth
A crystalline stream cut through, the sweet ambrosial waters
Trickled like laughter, and I drank my fill. Bushes too,
Heavy with blackberries, succulent, huge,
And tuberous roots grew wild there, easily unearthed,
And huge green leaves that flowered in abundance.
All morning I gathered, into a basket I wove from grasses,
And into the afternoon, before the rains returned
I stripped with the hatchet a few good slabs of wood,
Strong cedar, to fashion fireboard and spindle,
And a long curving juniper bow to kindle the blaze.
Back at the shack, behind the thing I discovered
What I’d missed before—the ruins of an old stone well
That made me feel distinctly ill at ease. But nevermind;
I easily suppressed the feeling. That evening
I cleared the hearth of dust and bones, and built a blaze
Over which I roasted tubers, and cheerfully I slept
Curled safe into a ball on the floor like a feral creature,
Soft comfort of the thread tied around my little finger.
Then I woke to the light of dawn, flooding the room
And felt lighter at heart than I’ve in many a moon.
In the center of the stone garden-bed, the little bloom
Had produced a tiny green berry. The flower’s petals
Had begun to fade, yellow and purple teardrops.
I flung open the door on the newly created world;
Warmth and light, birds in the storm-scattered seed
And a little chipmunk prowling through the grasses.
Flushed with love and angelic remembrance,
I stepped forth into the clearing. And with each passing day,
The strange fruit grew, from berry to grape-size, grape to plum.
The flower fell away as the fruit began to swell,
Dark and green and marbled, attached to drooping stem
That grew longer and stronger, until a thick and leafy vine
Disappeared into the depths of the raised stone bed.
By the stream I found an old abandoned tortoiseshell
And carried draughts of sweet water to the growing thing.
Beautifully mesmerizing, mysterious object
That bore no whiff of any foul destiny, but only
Grew and grew and grew and grew and grew and grew and grew.

In fact the entire forest seemed to thrive in the climate,
As days became weeks, and spring gave way to summer;
With each afternoon shower, the foliage bloomed
And soon the tall trees had grown so full
That it seemed the whole clearing had been transformed
Into a huge emerald cocoon, beautiful and illuminated,
And after each summer storm, the animals emerged
To scavenge what nutrients had been scattered by the rains.
Huge prehistoric woodpecker I once saw,
And larger creatures I glimpsed but could not identify;
And still that little chipmunk who happily prowled
And always made my spirits soar. Easily I survived there
In the center of the labyrinth, for the forest provided
All that I might need; I stayed mostly in the clearing
But occasionally ventured into the maze, though never far;
But once upon a dead log found chicken-of-the-woods,
And little button mushrooms in a patch of light one dawn
And wild asparagus; clovers and dandelions abundant for salads.
At dusk the light fell slanting through the clearing,
Or after rain, flooded with majestic stormlight
And I could feel the forest changing,
Vines seemed now to drape down from the trees,
No less wondrous than the roots from the stone walls;
And still the melon continued to swell. The strong vine
Now hung down and crept across the floor
Like verdant python, sprouting leaves. And every eve,
I built a blaze in the hearth, and lay there into the night
With magic thread tied around my finger tight,
Marvelling at the magic and the mystery of existence.
I dwelt there all summer at the center of the maze,
With air so sweet and mild, especially during rain
That often I shirked the shelter for the storm, to dance
Wildly in the downpour! Until one afternoon
In the open clearing I stood with stormwind gathering.
Madly the trees began to flail, and then the rains came;
Gentle at first, and warm; then steadily harder, until
The heavens seemed to empty by the wild bucketful.
Imagine a little flying insect trying to gather pollen
In a summer storm, dodging in midflight huge raindrops
The size of its own body, even as droplets splash
Upon the flower and send up spray through flitting wings,
Soaking the critter through; in that same way
Was I submerged in rain, drenched by the monstrous downpour
Until another warm stormgust came against and dried me,
Soft as cotton the incredible wind, almost like being held
By the storm itself. I leaned into the madness, rapt with glee
But then the wildest gust; for a moment I lost the ground
And suddenly fear returned; I fled to the shelter
Lest the fearsome storm carry me away.
But the gale died then, and I emerged
Into a forest shattered with sunlight,
The sky blotted out with thick green leaves,
Translucent from being soaked through; and water pooled
Through the clearing. Already new tendrils had begun to sprout
From cracks in the stone walls, dangling down
To reach the plethoric waters, almost as if to drink them in;
And rapidly the forest drained. Then the sun went down
And the whole clearing fell heavily into shadow.
But I woke to the light of dawn flooding the room
And felt lighter than I’ve in many a moon.
When I flung open the door, the forest had transformed
In that single night, swollen to impossible proportions.
The melon was huge too, heavy upon its earthen bed
With tremendous coils of vine draped down over the stone edge.
Well, I gave the magic thread a gentle squeeze,
And into me flooded a shock of horror—
For the thread snapped and fell listless to the ground.

Well, all the light and love and hope,
All the courage and magic and glory,
All the beauty and all the warmth
Drained from the world in a single flash.
My heart began to pound with what devastation,
Immolation of sunlight through what terrible trees,
On my hands and knees in the grasses, I clutched at the broken thread,
But the whole thing dissolved; only a little shred
Was left in my hands. I thrust it into my pocket
And felt a wave of panic sickness, like I wanted to cry.
But then I stood up straight: I felt the adrenaline surge
For I knew I had probably just one shot.
I grabbed the hatchet, chopped the vinestem
And severed the ripened fruit, left the shack
And slammed the door, jammed the broken
Padlock in place, and with heart pounding
Like thunder in my throat, I fled into the labyrinth.
Round and round the corridors I sped,
Up the long slope then right right left,
Left and then right again, straight ahead down,
Through the archway and past the stone mound;
Then round and round the merry go round,
This way and that way the labyrinth turned.
So beguiled I was, so intrigued beyond wonder
By the mysterious stone walls, the tangling roots;
So enchanted I grew that I failed to perceive
The way the ancient treetrunks began to creak and groan
As a bleak wind rose, moaning with humanoid grief.
Then a raven fell across the wild sky on charcoal wings,
And I burst from the maze into a square-shaped clearing.
In the center of the clearing stood a lone wooden shack;
Ripples of cloudy light stroked the decrepit roof.
I pounded on the door, but no answer; only
A broken padlock, dangling from its hasp.
I knocked the thing aside and reached out for handle,
Then I flung the heavy door wide, and leapt inside.
In the center of the room, in a shaft of stormlight
On a raised stone bed, lay an enormous watermelon
Glittering like a great green jade dragon egg.
Strange, I thought, shrugging off my traveler’s cloak.
That night I dreamed that I climbed upon the back
Of a very strange creature, with paws and claws and wings
Who took flight, and spiraled down into bottomless darknesses.

Dawn I woke to the stormdark gloaming,
Gloomier than I’ve been in many a moon.
But unaccountably so; for what reason had I
For aught but curiosity, to find myself in such a spot?
This shelter in which I’d passed the night
Seemed strong enough; had ample space,
A good stone hearth, and fire tools;
It seemed as if someone had been here before,
But vacated the place, for no reason I could see.
And still there was that massive oblong fruit,
Apparently not just a figment of my dreams;
I almost thought it would have disappeared by light of day,
Although to say the light of day was not quite right,
For even outside underneath the sky
The place was covered in a shroud of darkness,
From heavy woolen clouds that hovered low.
Tendrils of mist spilled in from the ruined labyrinth
And I set forth to explore my new surroundings.
Soon I heard behind me grow a strange
And curious buzzing sound, soft at first
But louder and louder with every step I took;
And what I did see filled me with glee because there was a—
And now there’s a little bee who won’t stop following me.
What a companion I somehow found!—but then I could see,
It was actually, another bee that she went following.
That night I built a fine blaze in the hearth, and sat alone
Strangely aching. It was a deep ache in the pit of me,
Unassuagable by any mortal means. But I can never sleep
Too easily on my first night in any new locale; so
Long I sat up that night entranced by the flickering,
Long I stayed up by the glow of the flames,
Gazing into the darkness and contemplating the watermelon
With a sense of gloom that hung like a London fog,
Though I had no idea why, and furthermore
No desire to recall even if I could, for why on earth
Would a man dwell upon such a thing? The whole next day
I found myself looking forward to night,
When I could rest my weary bones by the stone hearth
And gaze into the flames. I gathered wood
In huge armfuls from the forest, cedar and pine
And many other strange woods I recognized not,
Gargantuan trees that grew from the stone walls,
What was this place? I never thought to wonder,
But built a nice fire before nightfall, and then took
A swift glance at the watermelon. The huge fruit
Lay there in the stone-bound earth, and I thought
To try to move the thing, heavy though it seemed;
I reached out one hand and touched the thing.
The rind was smooth and and strong and hard,
And marbled green, glimmering in the firelight,
But strangely cool, and then I tried to heft the heavy fruit
Between both hands; gingerly I moved the hupe ripe melon
Down beside the stone hearth, where I sat too,
And together we passed those long and lonely hours,
Entranced by the flickering, and gazing into the flames.
How many nights passed this way, I cannot tell
For I do not know; and if I did, I’d still not say;
But I tell you this: a fog had begun to settle upon me
Like a fearsome shroud, impossible mist through which my mind
Seemed unable to penetrate, tho’ plagued I was
By some incessantly nagging inkling
Of having forgotten something important
That I was supposed to remember. At times,
A hunger grew in me, and more than once or twice
The thought occurred to poke a hole through the green rind
Deep into that sweet pink flesh and do my worst,
But I could never bring myself to such depravity,
Tho’ food grew sparse, and many pounds I shed
Til merely skin and bones I walked those lonesome ways.
And after many weeks or months the swollen fruit
One dawn lay there in glistening film of pinkish slime—
From the labyrinth I harvested clumps of spongy moss
And with them, sopped up the gloomy exudate
And made a little gentle soft and raised absorbent bed,
Upon which I tenderly set the great green gourd,
Thus solving the problem, for no more was the slime visible.
And even so—yet still within me sometimes rose
That strange and nagging sense of something lost,
Some other life that called to me from in my sleep
And haunted me inside my dreams, tho’ never sure
Upon my waking which was real and which unreal.
At strange moments these feelings arose,
And often too they came with waves of sickness,
That bordered at times upon the verge of nauseating,
But what had I eaten? Nothing gone bad,
For I was always sure to keep my harvests fresh,
So there was no reason I could see for stomach sickness.
It seldom even grew to the pitch of twisting anguish
That settled deep inside my gut. But at such times
I found I was able to banish the sensations
By simply thinking of something irrelevant;
I’d count the tree-leaves, or stones along the streambed,
And thus my mind became too occupied
To recollect forgotten loss; or else
I’d watch the ravens who landed upon
The roof of the shelter; they looked at me
And said CAW! CAW! CAW! CAW!
Sometimes I grew so sad I thought
It might be better to’ve never been born;
But in truth, whatever pain I felt was always eased
By the consolation I took from my watermelon. Indeed,
I drew endless comfort from that quaint vegetal presence
As she sat there beside me so quietly, so wordlessly,
And in her wordless way, and as the nights wore on,
And the shadows continued to lengthen and spread,
It began to seem to me as if she might perhaps
Be the only one in the whole of the wide wild world
Who could possibly understand me, seeing as how we shared
A single destiny between us, the sole inhabitants
Of this lonely and fantastic center of this ancient wood,
Where we had always dwelled together, and always would.

And so passed the years. It was a modest life,
And somewhat deficient in many regards,
But nonetheless we managed to survive.
Once it occurred to me to enrich my meager diet;
Perhaps the thought came when I saw a pair of crows
Afeast upon their spoils, a little chipmunk, long dead.
I knew there was a little trail down by the stream
Where small game roamed; so I thought to catch a bunny.
Cleverly I contrived to construct a little trap
Using a fragment of some coarse twine I found in one of my pockets.
I tied a loosened slipknot down between a pair of limbs
At the base of a small bush. Then I lay in wait;
But perhaps it was my scent dissuaded travel
For no creature came. Oh well, I left the snare in place
And thought to check back in some other time.
The next morning I went down to drink my fill
And what would you believe! Tremendous hare
Snared by a hind leg, struggling furiously to escape.
As I approached, the creature grew more frantic,
And dislocated its own leg. So afraid of me!
How sick I felt; but how to do the deed?
I thought of the hatchet, lucky I had one with me
But I had left it back at the shelter. And so instead
I used a large rock from the stream and brained the creature,
Bashed its skull in with a single blow. And all the blood
Spattered everywhere, and got all over me. As I carried the limp body
I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the stream:
Horrific: what have I become?

And as one season slipped into the next, and then the next,
Many years passed this way, and the years they were not kind.
Once I noticed a wrinkle or two in the melon;
Hardly a true cosmetic concern
Till the thing began to noticeably sag
There on her soft bed, whence I no longer moved her.
How many years she lay this way, I cannot say
For I lost all track of life and time
And grew totally accustomed to my reality,
As living beings are wont to do, however strange;
And what reality is not more strange
Than any a man might himself invent?
And soon enough, before my very eyes
The collapsing fruit began to swell once more,
And grew and grew, and almost even seemed to throb
As if she harbored some dark and terrible
Secret deep inside that marbled rind.
At times it did seem that I could sense within myself
Some kind of faded imprint of terrible pain,
Or loss too irrevocable to measure or weigh.
But whenever I started to think this way
Instead I lay back and admired the melon
Who slowly aquired a growing reek.
Jasmine I gathered, and wild sage
And crushed these herbs and other flowers
And sprinkled them over the withering fruit;
At any rate, I found the stench would soon abate
Whenever I simply spent enough time in the room;
For one would quickly grow accustomed to the odor
Until it faded nearly entirely from awareness.
The twin mice of night and day chewed away
At the vine of eternity, and somehow still I lived.
Would things continue this way forever? I certainly hoped they would—
But such vain hopes will always come crashing down
Too impossibly soon, for time is a savage river
And no man wakes in the room where he fell asleep,
For it is not the same room, and he is not the same man.
I was awakened one dawn by a highly offensive odor
That seemed to be emanating from the vicinity of the watermelon.
And it was a good thing I have such a sensitive nose,
For a trickle of pink slime was oozing swiftly across the floor,
And I managed to leap out of the way only just in the nitpick of time.
There on the floor I knelt down by my old friend,
Though forcefully repulsed by the distinctly putrid fragrance
That was definitely coming from her, though tactfully I feigned ignorance.
A shock of alarm passed through me, shot through with wist,
For all things that bloom soon fade, and everything beautiful blooms.
Then I tried to pick her up. I acted without thought,
Which is sometimes the best way, and sometimes the worst:
But as I lifted the heavy fruit, my fingers sank
Into a cheese-soft rind. Whether I jerked away in surprise,
Or slipped on a trace of slime, I shall never know;
But it was only a couple of inches that I dropped her:
She hit the floor and split open with a rude wet sound,
And a nauseating reek instantaneously flooded the shelter.
Panicking, I searched in vain for some way
To undo the damage I had done, or failing that
At least some way to mitigate that ghastly aroma;
But the fumigation was irreversible.
What to do? What to do; I fled the shack
And found myself suddenly beside the stone well
In deepest despair, raging sickness and horror of myself
That flooded me, like falling into a deep dark chasm;
Clumsy fool! I should have bashed my foolish head in,
Fool that I was. And as I stood there at the well,
I found myself overcome by the fervent wish
That none of this had ever happened! O, if only
I could go back to the way things were during the days
Long before the watermelon had begun to decompose,
When we used to lounge by the fire’s side and pass
Those long and looming hours when nothing on earth was amiss.
The sorrow cut me like a knife through flesh
So I stuffed the memories deep down inside
Where they could no longer hurt me. I began to feel violently ill
Then I noticed a single word, carved into a stone
There on the lip of the deep dark bottomless well:

SLEEPE

And as I gazed down into that yawning empty hole,
I felt it swiftly grow within me, that terrible urge;
Heavy the weight that hung down from my neck,
And I longed to surrender myself to the beckoning abyss.
But then there on the stone! I thought I saw the ivy bee!—
But it was just a speck of shadow on a dead dry leaf.
O cruel pang of hope, O sweet pang of loss,
Yet the shock was enough to wake me from my daze,
And suddenly, for some reason I thought of the hatchet.
Beautiful hatchet! Inlaid with such beautiful shells!
Why I loved the thing so much I truly did not know.
I’d left the thing inside, on the floor beside the hearth;
And in that moment I knew what I had to do.
To the door of the shelter I marched with incredible resolve
And sick fear, still I could smell the lingering reek
But my task was crystal clear. And so I took a huge breath
As I reached out for the handle, and I flung open the door—
Then froze upon the threshold, as if stunned by a blow,
And I let out a cry, and recoiled like I’d been struck.
Some unearthly stench burst forth from within the shack,
Like a raging housefire exploding through panes of glass,
Thick smoke billowing out in desolate black clouds.
Through chemical tears, I caught a horrific glimpse
Of some terrible vision there in the center of the room,
Swirls of rind collapsing in upon themselves
Like a nebula, the dark bloom of a dying galaxy.
The fermenting carcass lay in a soggy pink quagmire
That wriggled and writhed with shaggy living fur.
The walls and the ceiling were spattered with noxious slime
And studded with black seeds that quivered and throbbed,
Swollen with menace. Thick tendrils of vine hung
Through the mangled window, and disappeared up the chimney.
Somehow I managed to slam the door on this monstrous apparition
Though the thing remained burned and etched upon my retinas.
I stumbled away, willy nilly through the clearing;
It was like waking up from a long terrible dream.
But I was more myself then than I’d ever been before:
CAW! CAW! CAW! CAW! CAW! CAW! CAW!
Thus I cried to the raven who eyed me from overhead,
As I gathered my wits. Into the labyrinth I fled,
My heartbeat pounding like thunder inside my throat.
Round and round the corridors I sped,
Up the short slope then right right left,
Down the long slope then up left down,
Left and then right again, straight ahead down,
Through the archway and past the stone mound;
Then round and round the merry go round,
This way and that way the labyrinth turned.
And I burst from the maze into a square-shaped clearing.
In the center of the clearing stood a lone wooden shack;
Ripples of cloudy light stroked the decrepit roof
And a charcoal raven fell across the sky on wild wings.
The whole place was choked with strange green vines,
And thick with foliage that blotted out the heavens;
I had a very bad feeling as I approached the place,
But I took the bad feeling and I stuffed it down inside
Where it could no longer interfere with the goal I had in mind.
By the door, a broken padlock lay uselessly on the ground.
Sprouting from a crack in a slab of broken stone,
A little yellow and purple flower trembled in the wind,
Upon the stem of which clung a little trembling moth.
One moment I was reaching for the handle of the door
Then the world inverted; I found myself heaving
And vomiting under the stars.