Elsa in the Tontlawald

by Tori Truslow

If you would stray too far behind the town
and cross the border of the final field
and jump the creek where girls and boys have drowned
and stray all while the Sunday matin pealed
and trespass 'mongst the forest trees
                        -- what would they yield?

To lads' axes they yielded blood and howls,
to dusktime wand'rers sights of fleeting black
ragchildren leaping, calling, tortured owls
to a stumpen man with his tumerous patchwork sack
and his cart-sized cat
                        with its glowing coal-hot yowls.

To Elsa as she fled the ringing town
(where, 'mongst the mottled churchstones her greeneyed
father took lily hand from humble gown
and snatched the veil away to taste his bride
-- young Elsa's blackeyed playmate -- to have
            and hold down),

to Elsa running from the cold loud church
where her dear dark soft friend was fastly wed
to Elsa as she plunged through blistered birch
and scaly oak, they yielded winerich red
strawberries open-jawed --
                                  and he could search

but she would not come home.
                                  And so she lay
in the belly of the fruit; it spat her forth --
the red froth scattered on the swell and sway
beneath a seashell boat that cantered North
and at the helm
                       a girl as golden-white as day

who steered through world-vast waters, seas that sang
-- or Elsa thought, then saw the swift-tailed men
with long wild hair, that dwelt within the clang
of tumulting waves: sang strange praise again-and-'gain
to her, and Elsa's salt windragg'd head rang
with want, with wonderlust
                        song caught her throat -- but then

bright girl soaked up the sea in a rag to twist
into her hair, from underfoot the boat
she took, a blood-blue mussel in her fist
pocketed it so that they seemed to float
a moment, floorless, then their tiptoes kissed
the virid ground
                        of this land, weird and remote,

creased by queer squalls, glimming velds rustled gold
enfolded in turquoise gloam, hazed mauve fading East
fleet, nacre-cheeked, 'round Elsa came a crowd: made bold
to the bright girl she bowed; thrust her kiss aqua-deep -- lips released
their fine feast's flavours, myrrh cloyed the bluecold,
tongues tolled their nuptial welding
                            -- and all thinking ceased.

Days slipped and bubbled past, then; nothing mattered
to Elsa but the girl, each touch taut bliss
sharp through the sunmoon haze, delights bright spattered
her skin as pins -- but edges of each kiss
by him, that old bent stain, were tattered:
his chiming cat,
                        his sack of thoughts amiss --

reminisces of her heartstained father, of
the girl she'd left behind to be his wife
-- she wept sour for forgetting one she used to love
till "here" the stump-man said, "I'll bring to life
a glazed clay Elsaling as like you as a glove
to your sweet hand
                        just let my gentle knife

borrow your blood to mix with its muddy muscle
and let me tear your bread to be its heart,
this jade-slick snake behind its brow will rustle
ghostlike thoughts, with your kiss it will start
from here returning to willowed banks to tussle
with your old love
                        as if you'd never been apart."

And so she kissed her effigy goodbye
and let the years breeze round her song-fed head
they danced nights 'neath plumage of North-lumed sky
till Elsa, wrested from her bright girl's bed
was told: "You must grow up!
                                                 You must, now, fly!"

Hawk-shaped she stumbled, staggered, thermal-tossed
somehow in daylight, somehow looking down
upon those warrened woods where she had lost
her step, and on her scarce-remembered town
and on her weathered home
                        guarded by the mossed

shell of her dried-up changeling who had felled
her first love with a deep-thrust jade-scaled tongue,
and fed her father poisoned bread; blood welled
sudden from Elsa's breast -- shaft-pierced she spun
and crashed to Earth,
                        unmourned, unknelled.

But wait -- from o'er yon hill the land's Prince rides
And wakens with a kiss his new-claimed bride.

Tori Truslow is an aspiring eccentric with a folklore addiction and a patchwork blog of stories, poems, thoughts and interesting things from the web and the world. She sometimes lives in England and sometimes in Thailand and is equally bewitched by the ghosts and seasons of both worlds. Her favourite fruit is the mango during the Thai mango season, served with sticky rice or in long cold lassis.

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