Friday, October 3, 2014

"The Imps of St. Martin's Land"

Ah, yes, they tell me I was green
when they found me, me and my brother,
down by the wolfpit. We had passed our
tenth years, mangled as that hole in the ground,
thorny and worn and hungry. Ravenous.
Well, me (and my brother)
had brown hair and ten toes, ten little fingers
and buttony noses. We were perfect

…except for our skin.
Green, green as sin.

“Imps!” they called us,
but we didn’t know. Back then,
our tongues were still our own.
I can’t remember any of that old, sweet
language now, just the new harsh words,
their meaning forced down our lobes.
We heard the worst things, then.

Imps and devils, spirits, elves,
bringers of bad fortune, foes,
bad omens,
groans. Angry glares.
Or worse, the pointed silence
the absence of kindness,
meanness, any –ness at all.

The stillness stretches
into a column, rising,
a column of shadows, moving:
a million moths whispering up,
up to the roof, domed stone. A
real place. A place I’ve been. My
fingertips trace the pillar, dimpled cold.
St. Martin’s Land. My home. My home!

My brother and I grew up there,
our walls the womb of earth itself.
We all lived here, my brother, my
mother, my father, the others.
We lit fires in those pits, and went swimming
down that cavern. We sang each other
stories, danced, filled the village with laugh-
ter, laughter, laughter so we never saw the sun, so
we never had a day. We had our own
soothing words, language of touch, each other’s hands
crafting nets, weaving baskets, scavenging,
cooking herb pies, catching fish, healing, hunting
courage. Were we green? I don’t remember.
I remember the glow of the fungus at night
and the glint of the cavepearls in the fire’s
dying light. I remember the smell of the fur
that’s my bed. I remember my brother,
his woolly head, his dank brown breath
wisps, his smile a crooked line of bright.

Of course, he’s dead. They took away
his dancing, then his song, then his smile.
They took away the words that painted
his world. How could he go on?
As the green drained from his skin,
he clutched my hand, pink on pink,
and in usurper’s tongue exhaled:
“Back to St. Martin’s Land!”

(This is from a prompt over at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads; looking at images of caves, I was reminded of the 12th century old tale I read about today: two green children are found near Woolpit, UK, speaking a language no one can understand. They are raised, and they turn pink, and the brother dies. Later, the girl tells of the great, underground St. Martin's Land, where everyone was green. Wikipedia mentions some interesting theories of why children inspiring the story might have been green.)


Grace said...

Such an interesting story of what a home may be like for these two brothers ~ Enjoyed your reflections and background notes as well ~

Hannah said...

Wonderful!! I love that you brought a fictional twist and a great retelling of a story that I'd not heard before. Thank you so much for joining!

Brian Miller said...

interesting...what a story...tragic...the being different...and then the faint memories of a different life...and then that taken away...quite sad...

Katy Magee said...

What an amazing storytelling (and I'm not partial to narrative poems)! I had to read it several times - and I'm sure I'll come back to it again. Thanks for posting!

Stacy Lynn Mar said...

what a compelling write!

at first i thought i was reading a fairytale...but then i saw the comment afterwards. wow...what a story!

maybe there are other worlds within this world, after all. :)

stacy lynn mar

Sweeper of Dreams said...

Thank you so much for your comments! They really made me grin. I'm glad you guys liked the background story - crazy, huh? Have a lovely week, and happy reading/writing.