The Shadow and the Soul
The madman sleeps for now,
His ravings stilled, quieted at last by the bitter draught at his elbow.
He rests at his desk, pillowed by the book that conjured me here,
Drawing me away from those other lands, where I was happy and unafraid.
But his sorrow beckoned and my soul answered.
Persephone herself gave me leave.
She placed a gold coin between my lips for the ferryman
And gave a sigh of her beauty for bartering.
The ferryman wanted only the gold.
Then down, down a dark path of words,
I stumbled into a between-space, liminal,
where worlds touch so that the dead, or worse, may venture through.
In that Fae country, Oberon’s heir, mad himself with none to gainsay his cruelty,
transformed me for his spiteful amusement.
A rough rope around my ankle held me fast, but I was not his only prisoner.
He keeps Ania, a goddess (for there are many) of sorrows, inside a crumbling palace,
set amid lands blighted by her weeping which no glamour can conceal.
His silver-corded enchantments thread her hair and white throat.
She has lost the will to struggle and her tears collect in small pools worn into the flagstones.
Ania is his vengeance against the old gods—for giving up and giving way to the new.
He held me only as long as I amused him, as I croaked and squawked
and lunged from perch to perch.
Eventually, he released me, but took as ransom my words—save for one.
I flew to my love, the madman, who still called to me, soul to broken soul.
But he does not know me.
Now the laudanum does what I cannot—soothe him into slumber,
where curses thrown in dreams
cannot find their mark in my ebony breast.
Sowing comfort with the single word the fairy king left me,
I reap only the hatred lunacy inspires.
Bound by leather and paper pages, held as tightly any weeping goddess,
my love and I cannot be free of one another now.
For we are enshrined in words,
read, repeated, recited, remembered across continents and centuries
We will know peace nevermore.
Loretta Casteen 2018