I’m probably going to die
at midnight.

Don’t worry—
I’ll set the timer on the coffee pot
before I go.

The crows will be up with me
and the witches.
I’ll watch them through the window
and they’ll watch me back.

I’ll crack the window
so I can smell
stew simmering in cauldrons.
I’ll give some thought
to how it might taste—
boiled lizard eyes
& toad brains
& fingernails of newt.

You’ll be asleep
but that’s okay.
The crows will bob their heads
in time to your snoring.

This morning, a witch came to our door.
She didn’t seem gloating or gleeful
or even wicked.
Not much.

She had a card with my name on it.
She gave it to me.
She tipped her black hat
and went back down the drive.

We thought you might want to know,
the card said.
Don’t worry too much.
It happens to everyone.

Maybe the witch had cast
a calming spell on the card
because I’m not concerned
about dying.

I’m ready to settle in with the crows
and smell the boiling hummingbird’s feet.
I’m ready to leave you with a clean oven
and coffee ready in the pot.

I’ll miss you
but I suspect the crows
will keep us up to date.
They talk to the dead, I think.
They must be watching something
with those keen, staring eyes.

Rachel Swirsky

fairies

May 28, 2019

This beautifully titled novel is, I suppose, a fairy tale, since there are fairies in it, or, anyhow, beings called fairies. They aren’t visible to everyone, yet can affect the lives of people who don’t see, or don’t believe in them. In that, they play in modern industrial England something like their role in the folklore of the past. They don’t, however, fit conventional notions of what a fairy looks like: they aren’t the tall, fair ones who carry you off under the hill, nor yet the tiny Peaseblossoms and sprites the Victorians loved, and they are most definitely not Tinker Bell. Walton’s descriptions suggest that the great illustrator Arthur Rackham was one of the people who could see them: “In the same way that oak trees have acorns and hand-shaped leaves, and hazels have hazelnuts and little curved leaves, most fairies are gnarly and grey or green or brown, and there’s generally something hairy about them somewhere. This one was grey, very gnarly indeed, and well over towards the hideous part of the spectrum.”

Mori, the protagonist and narrator of the novel, has always seen and known the fairies. Though she’d like them to be Tolkien’s Elves,  they aren’t gracious and powerful,  but frustrated, marginal, somehow diminished. Some of them are probably ghosts. They are untamed, uncivilised, and unpredictable. They speak Welsh, mostly. They don’t answer to any name, but if asked properly they can grant wishes. They are like fragments of the wild, surviving only where a trace of woodland survives, haunting whatever remains of the unhuman: old parks, pre-industrial, untilled places, forgotten roads out past the edges of towns and farms.

Ursula K Le Guin
Review of Jo Walton’s Among Others
The Guardian 30th March 2013

Broken people

May 28, 2019

Broken people don’t hide from their monsters. Broken people let themselves be eaten.

Francesca Zappia
Eliza and Her Monsters

the same hard quality

May 28, 2019

The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the air, and then the sharp green colour of the land. There was no softness anywhere. The distant hills did not blend into the sky but stood out like rocks, so close that I could almost touch them, their proximity giving me the shock of surprise and wonder which a child feels looking for the first time through a telescope. Nearer to me, too each object had the same hard quality, the very grass turning to single blades, springing from a younger, harsher soil than the soil I knew.

Daphne Du Maurier
The House on the Strand