...they are but beggars....
Mumma liked the River,
liked the green-gold-eyed slowness of it,
liked the rush of places where uncalm
hissed and tangled
within the mouths of sharp-toothed rock.
Liked the way a sleeping pike might lie upon its stilled surface in the very deep of summer.*
(myself beneath the sweet weight of blankets,
near-stilled candle miming dragon-shadows upon the wall)
she would tell me tales of it,
tales of warm summer-laz'd drifts,
tales of iced crystal,
freed and racing
beneath the touch of the Sun.
She sang to me of all
it might entwine
within its journey to sister-Sea:
stones and trees,
fields and forests,
beasts and two-footed folk.
All these things she spoke to me,
story and song,
my dremes filled with
and I heard the chuckle and sigh
of water woven about me,
smelled the river-rushes
warming in the Sun,
tasted the bitter-brightness
of the water-blood of Her
upon my tongue,
touched the gem'd ripples
resounding from Her heart.
That is the place Mumma found,
Mumma, and Da, too,
the coils of Her shining silver beneath the Moon,
voice dangerous and wanting,
the unstoppable life of Her filling lungs yet tugging
the rushes holding the pale remains within their tender-tipped arms.
I watched the quiet of Mumma's face,
Da's fingers caught, still, in the midnight of her hair.
I wondered what they had seen,
beneath the armoured ripples,
held close within chill-weighted arms.
I reasoned that Mumma should tell me of it,
soft voice making naught of the darkness,
lips kissing my brow, after, for goodnight.
I never knew that tale,
nor (ever again) the promise of a sweet waking
releasing me to dreme.
There was no sense to it,
no sense to me.
That is not right.
Sun shining gold-hot, or dimmed beneath grey rain,
Moon frowning upon me, or helped on by only the small light of stars,
I sought them.
In harvest fields and darkened forest, I sought them.
Beneath leaves of green, between the pages of rune-spilt books, I sought them.
On a day of winter,
trees deadened by snow,
the river-traitor held fast from malice by her cloak of ice,
I crawl beneath their bed.
With a sight which only those who are beggars of the heart might have,
I see them there,
in the forgotten velvet dust that time has left me:
a solitary sooted strand of hair, the pale half-crescent of a nail,
the shining inconsequence of an ivory button......
there is, even,
a ginger-coloured lash,
its sickle-point of fire lighting the shadow'd floor.
I find my rest here often,
held fast by distant memory,
in beggar's velvet**.
*Primula is being romantic, in her story-telling. Pike do
not sleep upon a water surface. However, they are, perhaps,
faculative air-breathers, and, as such, may momentarily be observed
"resting" upon it.
**In British English, dust bunnies are sometimes called beggar's velvet.
***with a thank you to William Shakespeare for the title, a perversion of Romeo and Juliet:
"they are but beggars who can count their worth; But my true love is
grown to such excess I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth."