märchen : two


I. morpheus

the city of lights is dark
this dusk, and as i tread the tops
of the white
cobbled moonstone streets, there is no one
to be seen in this place.

up the hill, through the gates, the hall
is echoing, quiet
and cavernous, dappled
with moonbeams dancing
through arched glass. there is no one here

where is your master? i ask
the shadows, but ghosts never answer
your questions. there is no one.

here, he says from the darkness, i
am here. and he is.

i dined in venice
today, i say, and hands
sliding over merlot silk tighten
around my waist.

and did he promise you the world? he asks, dark
velvet voice even as he unties my mask
of ebony lace. i don't have to look
to see eyes suddenly rimed
with ice.

and more, i whisper.

dreams, he says, merely dreams
that fade away like frost
in the sun.

he tilts my chin up, and i am frozen
in his gaze. my mask
is gone, his
is not, and those dark iron points
of gray pierce me from behind
black silk and silver thread.

that brazen cousin
of mine could never hold one so lovely
as you, he says, lulling, hypnotic
voice washing over me like waves
of sleep, spinning silken bonds so fine that all
i can do is ravel them.

you speak in riddles and never
let me see the light, i say. how
am i to know? how am i to choose? i
am not yours.

everything you want, he says, everything
you want will be yours. i say
the first thing that comes
to mind.

the moon.

he plucks a bauble out
of the night, and now there is a soft
glow of pearls caught
in dark curls.

yours, he says.

the stars?

he slides a circle of glittering
diamonds on my finger.

anything, he says, and i
face the east, toward the wakening
dawn and what i do not
have to say.

he stiffens, drops
my hands, and ice crystals fall
from his eyelashes as he stares,
unseeing. for this
he has no answer.

i speak not a word, and yet
he still understands.

he steps back.

so you are leaving me, he says
quietly. for a few scattered sunbeams and a fire
that blisters.

i can't look at him.
i don't know, i say, and my voice sounds weak even
to me.

but i do, he breathes, exhausted of all life
and energy. he wraps his midnight cloak around me.
i love you, he says, moon-pale face averted, and i
believe him.

i love you, he repeats, and now his voice
sounds like a star streaking down from the heavens
to its death. isn't that enough?

i don't know how to tell him what has
to be. it must be my choice. and to choose:
i have to know, to understand. to love
is not enough, not
when i know nothing of indifference.

wait, i say, please.


II. la belle et la bête

weeks, months, years? later, the hall
is veiled with dust. time
has both fled and stood its ground
here, and i don't
know where he is.

where is your master? i ask
the shadows, but they never
answered then and they don't
answer now. the solitude
is a physical presence, pressing
in all around me. where
is the master of dreams?

i take slow, steady
steps muffled by the carpet of dust
and age, whisper his name and hope
i am not too late. i could spend millennia
in these moon-pale halls and never once
meet another soul.

perhaps i do. at last
i reach a chamber cobwebbed
with darkness and spun with that stuff
from which dreams are made
and i see his face; he sleeps—pinioned,
prisoned, wrapped fast
in dreams.

he is so alone that i
can't help myself: i
nestle close, press
into the contours of his body, fingers frostbitten
and mind numbed by his too-tangible
absence. he is so
cold, skin like ice and snow
white in hue.

come back, i whisper, cracked
words leaving my mouth in a puff of fog.
come back.

seconds, minutes, hours
pass, and still
there is no change in the statue beside me.

i love you, i say, finally, because now i know what it is
and what it isn't to live without air in this world. isn't that

another thousand years pass. we are fire, we are ice,
we are all that is left in this realm, and still
he sleeps without end.

wait, he breathes, please.

and i do.