Friday, October 5, 2018

THE FAIRY'S CAVE Part I "Elf Bolts" by Charles A. Swanson

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present The Fairy’s Cave, an epic fantasy narrative poem by Charles A. Swanson.  The poem will be published as a four-part series on successive Fridays in October.  The first installment, “Elf Bolts,” is presented today.

Charles teaches dual enrollment English in a new Academy for Engineering and Technology, serving the Southside region of Virginia, and pastors a small church in Danville.  His poetry and short fiction have appeared in Virginia Writing, Wildlife in North Carolina, Appalachian Heritage, Appalachian Journal, Pegasus, and elsewhere.  He has published two books of poetry:  After the Garden (MotesBooks), and Farm Life and Legend (Finishing Line Press).

"Green-Eyed Monster" Ink & Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
The Fairy’s Cave
Charles A. Swanson

I. Elf Bolts

        --The Little Green-Eyed Monster

Under the crags, in the cave, he waits,
little pinched faced imp. They come,
the boy, the girl. Big-eared, bright-eyed
fairy boy, he waits in shadows,
behind boulders, in untrodden dust
(his bare feet make no prints, he floats,
hovers he does, even without wings).
The boy, the girl, bring play-pretties.
They spread out in innocence
pockets of stones, neckerchiefs
of plucked flowers—birdfoot pansies.
Stones become a minister, a groom,
a bride, a rock-table full of congregants.
Little fairy-elf, much older than his size,
much more groaning in the groins,
though he and the little girl, no
larger than he, can’t ever meet—ever
mate, stamps his foot, puffs
his chest, blows out his breath,
and tosses devious elf-bolts

at the human boy’s breast.

Poet’s Notes for “Elf Bolts”: When a poem starts with a tickle in the brain, that seems a good beginning.  In Chapter XII of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Catherine Earnshaw Linton is ill, not far from death.  She accuses Nelly, a servant (who is also a long-time friend), of wishing her harm.  Catherine says, “I see in you Nelly . . . an aged woman; you have grey hair and bent shoulders.  This bed is the fairy cave under Penistone crags, and you are gathering elf-bolts to hurt our heifers; pretending, while I am near, that they are only locks of wool.”

Such a name as Penistone crags made me wonder about the author, about how she sneaked into such a tumultuous Victorian-age love story a bit of innuendo and sexual nomenclature.  What also fascinated me was the fairy cave, a place mentioned several times, but not presented.  The final trigger was the elf-bolts.  What would a fairy toss?  Something like locks of wool?  Locks of wool would be innocuous yet capable of hurt.

All of it seemed like a good beginning to a poem—a fairy, a mysterious cave, and an instrument of harm.  Then there’s the additional identification for the fairy, that of an elf.  Suddenly, the fairy seemed not so innocent.

Another connection to Wuthering Heights is the boy and girl in my poem.  I see them as Heathcliff and Catherine, the famous lovers.  I’ve often wondered how Brontë was able to create such an iconic pair, a storybook type of love, when she presents the actual characters as haughty and selfish.  They are not loveable, yet their love comes down to us as love exemplar.  I see my boy and girl as Heathcliff and Catherine in their childhood, already fascinated with each other and full of a curiosity that would take them to a place as mythical as a fairy cave, a place where sexuality is as tangible as the nebulous air.

Editor’s Note:  What a tantalizing beginning!  This is exactly the kind of epic narrative poetry I seek for Songs of Eretz.  I especially enjoy the way Charles preserves a near perfect (perfect would be boring) balladic rhythm, which adds an old household tales feel to the fairytale narrative.  Return to Songs of Eretz Poetry Review next Friday, October 12, for the next installment of The Fairy’s Cave, “Purple Polka-Dotted Mushrooms.”

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