Autumn Poetry Challenge: Day 3
Autumn Poetry Challenge: Last Day

Autumn Poetry Challenge: Day 4

Gerda and the Reindeer by Edmund Dulac

The theme for the Poetry Challenge today is "Animal Brides and Bridegrooms," by which I mean I'm looking for poems inspired by the myths and folk tales found the world over in which men and women are courted by or marry animal spouses (or animal shapeshifters, like selchies) .

The featured poem today (from the JoMA archives) is "The Girl Who Married the Reindeer" by the Irish poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin...but please note that your poem(s) needn't be about reindeer. Any animal (bird, fish, etc.) will do. Fox women, bear suitors, snake bridegrooms, tortoise brides, frog princes and princesses, crane wives, etc. etc. -- they're all good. (But save your "Beauty & the Beast" poems for our last Poetry Challenge tomorrow, even though it's technically an Animal Bridegroom story. And now I've given away tomorrow's theme, so you have extra time to prepare!)

To  read more about Animal Bride/Bridegroom tales, go here. For the rules of the Poetry Challenge, go here.

I'm grateful to all of the writers who are contributing poems, and also to all of the readers who are kindly commenting on them. Do check in on yesterday's Comments thread, as some wonderful new poems have appeared there overnight.... 

Photograph by Katerina Plotnikova 10.27.55The Girl Who Married a Reindeer


When she came to the finger-post
She turned right and walked as far as the mountains.
Patches of snow lay under the thorny bush
That was blue with sloes. She filled her pockets.
The sloes piled into the hollows of her skirt.
The sunset wind blew cold against her belly
And light shrank between the branches
ReindeerWhile her hands raked in the hard fruit.

The reindeer halted before her
And claimed her as his wife.
She rode home on his back without speaking,
Holding her rolled–up skirt,
Her free hand grasping the wide antlers
To keep her steady on the long ride.


How could they let her go back to stay
In that cold house with that strange beast?
So the old queen said, whose son her sister had married.

Thirteen months after she left home
She'd travelled hunched on the deck of a trader
Southwards to her sister's wedding.

Her eyes reflected acres of snow,
Her breasts were large from suckling,
There was salt in her hair.

They met her staggering on the quay;
They put her in a scented bath,
Found a silken dress, combed her hair out.
They slipped a powder in her drink
So she forgot her child, her friend,
The snow, and the sloe gin.


The reindeer died when his child was ten years old.
Naked in death his body was a man's.
Young, with an old man’s face and scored with grief.

When the old woman felt his curse, she sickened,
She lay in her tower bedroom and could not speak.
The young woman who had nursed her grandchildren nursed her.


The boy from the north stood in the archway
That looked into the courtyard where water fell,
His arm around the neck of his companion —
A wild reindeer staggered by sunlight.
His hair was bleached, his skin blistered.
He saw the woman in wide silk trousers
Come out of the door at the foot of the stairs,
Sit on a cushion and stretch her right hand for a hammer.
She hammered the dried, broad beans one by one,
While the swallows timed her, swinging side to side:
The hard skin fell away, and the left hand
Tossed the bean into the big brass pot.
It would surely take her all day to do them all.
She saw the child watching, her face did not change.

A light wind fled over them
As the witch died in the high tower.
She knew her child in that moment:
His body poured into her vision
Like a snake pouring over the ground,
Like a double–mouthed fountain of two nymphs,
The light groove scored on his chest
Like the meeting of two tidal roads, two oceans.

- Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin


Photograph by Katerina Plotnikova

Katerina Plotnikova

The art above is: "Gerda and the Reindeer" by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953);  a photograph by Katerina Plotnikova, "Gerda and the Reindeer" drawing (1913, artist unknown);a detail from a painting by Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942);"The Horned Man," a sculpture by Wendy Froud; a reindeer photograph; and two more images by the Russian surrealist photographer Katerina Plotnikova. The poem above, "The Girl Who Married the Reindeer," is copyright c 1995 by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin; all rights are reserved by the author. The poem first appeared in The Southern Review (Autumn 1995), and was subsequently reprinted in the Journal of Mythic Arts and the author's collection The Girl Who Married the Reindeer (Gallery Press, Ireland).

PLEASE NOTE: There are so many responses to this post that Typepad has broken them into two pages. Be sure to click on the "Show More Comments" link at the end of the first page (which is easy to miss) in order to see the lastest poetry additions.


My gracious, what a marvelous poem. And what a lovely way to start the day.

(The mating of the Selkie)

She tasted salt on his lips,
And his voice roared oceans in storm
When he raged at the prison
She'd made.

But in the calms that came after,
His presence was like soft-dawning skies,
Defined by the wings of a bird
That slid a slow diminuendo
To distance.

I'm hurrying off to the (not so) wilds of the Malvern Hills today which means I won't have access to the internet until I get back on Sunday; really frustrating! But I just wanted to ask, does anyone else who makes pictures/sculptures etc, feel that poems come from the same place in the mind/brain as the visual arts?

But I just wanted to ask,

Sorry, I didn't leave enough space between the last verse of the poem and the following paragraph; and I seem to have repeated the beginning of the question! Still, it makes a sort of surreal (unintended) poem, I suppose!

I think so, Stuart. Sometimes my poems become pictures, sometimes vice versa, sometimes a lone line of poetry becomes the title (and the inspiration) for a new artwork. Often I feel they are all part of a greater whole, sometimes there is just the IDEA, and I find myself turning it over in my mind and asking, "is this a poem...or a painting...a song perhaps?"

Thanks Christina; that's similar to how I feel. Though I wouldn't say the same about prose writings; with poetry and pictures they either work or they don't, but with prose if it's refusing to flow, I find that if I just keep plugging away at it, then often it'll yield something.


He thinks that she will learn to love him.
Learn to understand human words.
That one day she will cease to keen in the voice
of the ocean that chills his blood,
will learn to sing sweet lullabies to the children
he so desperately wants.

Oh, he dreams of strong, perfect sons, with
honest, blue eyes and work roughened hands.
But on nights when the cold wind comes
howling down from the north and
whips the sea into a frenzy,
when the moon is hidden
by clouds, and the village women
line the cliffs, holding lamps to guide their menfolk home,
on nights such as these, he dreams of other children.

Sons with storm-grey eyes that seem to have no souls,
daughters with fine, transluscent webs between
their blue-white fingers.
Children who cannot speak,
but howl like the wind and chatter like gulls.

Written years ago as a piece of prose (I was working on a play idea), and rearranged only slightly, by putting line breaks in!

This is beautiful! And who was it who defined poetry as a piece of writing that had a straight edge down one side and a wavy edge down the other?

Source material at

(after "The Firefly")

In the frozen night
her wings
are ice crystals, beating.

Like paper lanterns,
her abdomen glows
with summer heat.

He stumbles home from laughing friends,
with sake warming misty breath.
His bride's abode is shut and dark.

His bachelorhood's about to end
and parties toward its jolly death.
Drunk eyes discern a flitting spark.

She speeds
toward his silhouette,
above crunching snow --

on the thrill
of flight.

He draws his robes against the chill
and blinks. This has to be a trick.
No bugs fly now! He must be ill.
His bed awaits. He swings his stick.

In the morning,
her tale makes a fog
above her tea.

Her lover sips in silence, sees
the fright that floats behind her eyes.
It's just a dream, his bride insists.

It's dangerous, what passion frees.
He fears he'll lose her to the skies.
He spies her staring at his fists.

Walking stick glows.
flies from the hearth.


That violet gaze
I imagine you have bottle green heels on,
a quirky, chic, message.
I imagine myself beneath the bloom of those eyes,
washed up on the island of a kiss
rooting to touch spirit, and anchor in this crazy weather,
watching your breath move faster
the rise and fall of a tide
contained by the harbour of your dress
patterned like seal skin
velvet and as soft.
I imagine these things as you swim,
head above the water, toward me.
Let me take you out for dinner
bask in the enchantment.
We could eat salmon
Your cheeks would be pink as its flesh, and still flush
I would touch your hem
with reverence
and feel the sea stir beneath my fingers
Nothing would please me more.
One night and then another
I would keep you

i dont know stuart but i love that description!!

and the poem is wonderful too! :)

I agree with you and Christina.
When I'm in the poem-writing-zone, it's very similar to the one I'm in when I create visual art. But when writing prose, I find it's quite different. There is a certain amazing 'flow' which occurs with both poetry/visual art and prose, but it has a totally different feel - as though I'm mining / tapping different parts of myself. If that makes any sense! Ah - just had a thought - with poetry/visual art I often feel as though I'm not just going inward, but that I'm opening up and things are channelling through me, while with prose, it's more internal. Hmm...not sure it that gets it. I have to give this more thought. Thanks for raising an interesting topic.

ps. Stuart, I forgot to say: lovely poem!

Terri, thank you once again for this wonderful forum you've put together here! And to everyone who's participated. I've been enjoying coming back again and again (and again) to enjoy the new offerings.

I tried to come up with something new today, but it's just not happening. Here's an older piece of mine which appeared in the March 2013 Issue of Niteblade.


i remember the time of sea-foam, of salt
of songs in the waves rolling over me.

before the hands — of silk
and chain; charms and promises —
coaxed my sea-slick skin from me
and stretched it water-thin
across the concrete bones of this land.
a token. a trophy. an evaporating pelt.

i stare into the bathroom mirror
my eyes dim like the pearls
of the choker around my neck.

i try to remember the taste of the sea,
but have the taste of take-away sushi in my mouth.

i try to remember its roaring breath,
but can only hear this air, electric
with noise.

when did i trade fjords and caves
for highways and malls;
for cotton sheets?

my raw flesh burns
for the feel of the wild deep;
for a body that could twist in the spray of salt water,
that could feel the beating of the stars
through a liquid sky.

i look over to the child playing in the porcelain bath
and hope that the subtle webbing between her fingers and toes;
the almost remembered pull of the tides;
the desire for salt in her pores
will draw her back
to before.


love this stanza!

my raw flesh burns
for the feel of the wild deep;
for a body that could twist in the spray of salt water,
that could feel the beating of the stars
through a liquid sky.


The Elephant’s Bride

The Elephant’s Bride
was not as wide
as her husband, or as deep.

The only trunk she had
was filled with clothes.

Her nose was small,
the septum deviated,
she snored in her sleep,
but not loud enough to wake
her big husband.

The Elephant’s Bride
had never slept alone.
Sisters do not own
a single bed,
but sleep
cocooned, spooned
head to heart, heart to head.
She was still a girl
when she was wed.
Now her gargantuan lover
was dead.

He who had been so huge,
was made small by illness.
His ears drooped,
his tail shed hairs,
his eyes seemed scaled,
grey skin paled.
Slump went his great back
And he dropped
right in his track.

She touched one long, cold, tusk,
whispered as he became a husk,
“Go love, and I will follow.”
Better that then a dead elephant’s wife.
Widows in her world
had less than a half-life.

It took a derrick and ten men
to lift the corpse
on to the byre.
She set the fire,
then climbed on
the bed of flame,
folded her arms,
closed her eyes,
waited to claim
sweet heaven’s surprise.

But with a horrible crack
and a worse crash,
her hopes of heaven
were quickly dashed.
She arose, small,
and covered with ash.

A miracle
or an allegory?
There is no moral here,
no jokes either.
You have a heart of stone
or else you are a believer.
I am neither,
just a teller of gossip,
a memorist, a liar.
Some of us bring water,
some bring alcohol
to fuel the funeral pyre.
C 2010 Jane Yolen from Beastly Bride
(Datlow, Windling)

Thank you both. Often with a poem, where I put the line breaks is purely instinctual, almost as if I feel gently along the line till I find a spot where I think 'ah, that's the gap there', and it has nothing to do with grammar. Actually Stuart, this one was slightly ragged down the left side too, but Wordpress didn't like my tabs! Beautiful poem of yours, its what made me remember my old one!


Oh, these are all wonderful so far. (And please keep them coming!)

Here's another one from the JoMA archives, "At the River of Crocodiles" by Zan Ross:

And a poignant poem by Mary O'Malley:


He never asked why she always walked
By the shore, what she craved
Why she never cried when every wave
Crescendoed like an orchestra of bones.
She stood again on the low bridge
The night of the full moon.

One sweet, deep breath and she slipped in
Where the river fills the sea.
She saw him clearly in the street light -- his puzzlement.
Rid of him she let out one low, strange cry. . .

(Copyright c 1995 by Mary O'Malley; all rights reserved by the author. First published in The Southern Review, 1995.)

The Deer Wife

Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter.
Proverbs 6:5

Bear sons. Bind roses on cloth
with the needle’s thread. Braid
and unbraid hair. Look good by the light
of window or hearth-- but say nothing
of the forest.

Open a prayer book, sit
and pretend to read when legs
want to leap as those of a doe
defying steep hill and stone chasm,

when the soul needs to shift
molding the shape of her grace
into something wild, furtive.

How dare you ask this of me

when you know I was never tamed
by keys and clocks, psalms or spindle,

when you know I was raised by the crone,
an orphan she found
under fir trees where the deer
and wood pigeons fled.

How dare you ask this of me

when you said you didn’t care
but simply wanted a fair bride
to steal your breath, to share meals
sweetened with wine and fruit.
A maiden’s shy smile.

How can you ask this of me

when you know I ‘m more hoof than heel
growing cold within these walls -- wanting
my pelt of fur, and not shelter
that will lay your lady to rest
in her own sheet of skin?

How can you ask this of me?

I weep --
with yet a knife to clean
and a tray of apples.

oh my, what a gorgeous poem Wendy! The shivering wild doe-ness of your words, ready to dart hoof-shining into the woods.

Hi Stuart

Frist, let me say this poem is beautiful. I really like the way you contrast the character of the male selkie here, the range in mood and feeling. The details are vivid and haunting underscored by a nice rhythm.

In answer to your question, I am primarily an imagist in my writing. I always see things through metaphor and for me, poetry is a visual art as well as a phonetic one. I originally wanted to be an artist but found I was not that
talented with ink & pen, brush & paint, so I returned to my
literary roots and viewed my world and experience through poetry, mainly speculative fiction. Words can conjure not only vivid images but also visual associations that go with them and evoke certain memories, emotions and ideas. Thank you for bringing up this topic, it's very interesting and something that creates a great discussion.


Hi Christina

A gorgeous poem and told with such vivid and intense details. I like the way you describe his expected thoughts
and wishes toward her and their potential children juxtaposed
with his subconscious yearnings that are exorcised by the sea
on nights such as this

But on nights when the cold wind comes
howling down from the north and
whips the sea into a frenzy,
when the moon is hidden
by clouds, and the village women
line the cliffs, holding lamps to guide their menfolk home,
on nights such as these, he dreams of other children.

Sons with storm-grey eyes that seem to have no souls,
daughters with fine, transluscent webs between
their blue-white fingers.

Beautiful and original!
Thank you

Hi Terri

Thank you so much for this week's poetry challenge and these
marvelous exercises extracted from classic myth and fairytale. I have loved participating and reading all the superb works presented here. I have Eileen's book, The Girl Who Married The Reindeer in my collection of poetry books and absolutely loved that particular piece along with her others. And this other poem, The Otter Woman" is gorgeous and haunting.

Again, thank you!

Hi Elissa

In the frozen night
her wings
are ice crystals, beating.

Like paper lanterns,
her abdomen glows
with summer heat.

These opening lines hooks the reader right away with their beautiful imagery and language. And then the rest of the poem
follows suit with lyrical beauty and haunting details. I love how you based this on a Japanese tale. Gorgeous!

Thank you for sharing this,


I never thought I could be
or should be
tamed, held
by fences, walls, deadlines.

I want to run free
like wolf, like deer
in a world where wolf, where deer
can no longer run free,
territories cut, fenced, paved,
built on, bricks and concrete,
where claw and hoof no longer
leave soft patterns in the grass.

I want to soar high
like raven, like buzzard,
into skies which are scarred
by the straight long clouds
left by passing airplanes
carrying people who
cannot fly on their own.

I want to dig deep
like bear, like badger
making a cave to house me
a shrine to my Mother,
a place of solitude and darkness
soft walls crumbling,
scent of wet, damp earth
singing my souls home
far from pollution and poison.

I want to wake up
the guardians of our planet
call them back at the edge of chaos
to save this earth
so wolf and deer and me can run free
so raven and buzzard an me can fly high
so bear and badger and me can dig deep
so we all can live untamed.

Hi Lynn

What a fine and imaginative poem. I like the way you portray
the female character who seems imprisoned by her choice and domesticated situation. Her feelings and thoughts come across with a haunting intensity and evoke empathy from the reader. I also love the last stanza where she hopes her children will inherit that sense of freedom and wildness that is part of her and their maternal heritage. The entire poem is wonderfully written but the ending in particular really touches me deeply, strikes a chord --

i look over to the child playing in the porcelain bath
and hope that the subtle webbing between her fingers and toes;
the almost remembered pull of the tides;
the desire for salt in her pores
will draw her back
to before

Thank you for sharing,

The Morning After

When the harvest moon throws a last beam
across the winnowed field, she can be seen
glowing near the horizon, the white bison
dancing till her fur sloughs off to skin.
Naked then, a woman's song, high and thin
pierces morning. Where hoofs raised dust,
now her feet beat upon the earth, thrust
her body wildly, turning, shivering, alone.
she searches in vain for husband and home.


I sit with a stone in my pocket & I listen to the stone.
(It tells me that if you live on the earth you will end
up with your father & your mother & your sister all
jumbled together in a hole in the ground. That's what
the hole told the stone. Then the stone told me.)

My husband keeps me heavy with platters
of food. He keeps me heavy with sperm.

Fetuses distort my body. Sometimes a hard foot
will try to kick its way right through the sack.

A glittering skin hangs on a hook in the closet. It is the
skin I wore when he first found me. The skin he took. Two
searing cuts & then he peeled it with his naughty hands.
It is the way he bound himself to me. He forced me to
say the words then we were shackled.

I should sheathe that old skin
onto myself & dive into the ocean
with its shifting palaces of
light that lull the jelly of my brain.

Waves overtake me. I can barely
remember my litter of children.

My gashes bleed as I swim away.


I sit with a stone in my pocket & I listen to the stone.
(It tells me that if you live on the earth you will end
up with your father & your mother & your sister all
jumbled together in a hole in the ground. That's what
the hole told the stone. Then the stone told me.)

My husband keeps me heavy with platters
of food. He keeps me heavy with sperm.

Fetuses distort my body. Sometimes a hard foot
will try to kick its way right through the sack.

A glittering skin hangs on a hook in the closet. It is the
skin I wore when he first found me. The skin he took. Two
searing cuts & then he peeled it with his naughty hands.
It is the way he bound himself to me. He forced me to
say the words then we were shackled.

I should sheathe that old skin
onto myself & dive into the ocean
with its shifting palaces of
light that lull the jelly of my brain.

Waves overtake me. I can barely
remember my litter of children.

My gashes bleed as I swim away.

This is beautiful, Christina. Haunting. I'm intrigued that it was an idea for a play. That would be incredible. I get such vivid visual and auditory imaged from this...

Thank you, Christina.

I'm so glad to hear it resonated with you, Wendy!

Thank you, Susannah.

that...erm...should be 'images'...

This time I don't have to invent a poem. This one has a different prompt and is in my send'em out unpublished pile.


Misread Headline in Dear Abby Column

A Sam, our frolic by the inlet, intoxicated
By seaspray, sunlight on your human face, our kiss;
Then, eyes downcast, you confess. Look up, eager.
No, I have never known the upward exhilaration
Of leaping up waterfalls. sleek bodied, scaled.
Myth I knew, of selkie, of the bear's bride.

Must I give the high desert, my dusty boots?
Never go where the flic of a lizards's tongue
Is a wicked earthy remark? Never see mountains,
Only tall waves with tiny surfers on them? I
Shudder remembering goldfish, inglorious
Funerals down pipes in the land under the house.

Ancient drumming in my veins, translating air
Into gills. Oh sailor, singer, alluring creature;
My mind is teetering on a fleck of foam. Alone?
With things, or with you,wild, double life,
Your secrets unknowable in any way, but this
Marriage, spirit, flesh. To leap. To know.

Yikes - that should begin, "Ah Sam..."

Oh, I had to write about the selkie, too.


He sleeps beside me,
lips slightly open
dark lashes, forever glistened
from one thousand lonely tears.
Now everything about him is dry.

I twist my body, turn and wade
The air is too light, breath so sharp
plus the silkened sheets scratching my skin
I throw them off and carry myself up
into the darker parts of our home.

I think even matter and flesh
remember their origins in the sea
and push down upon themselves,
longing to return.
I don't know how they stand it,
how they pretend it's better
with our feet pressed against the brown earth,
forever apart from our source.
They've just forgotten.
I will never forget.

I hear the song of my sisters
when I angle my ear out
to the salty wind.
Sometimes I fling the door open
to let it in, this wind,
slippery, slick over me,
slinging crystals of salt
with their songs.
It, the most, feels like home.

We remember you,
my sisters sing tonight
I remember, too.
Deep black and white foam,
warm and cold currents,
the glitter of moonlight above.
There is nothing softer than water
nothing worse than dry.
Sometimes I weep
just to taste my tears.

I pull the wind into my hands
and sing, soft as a prayer:
Sisters, I remember, too,
and I will return.
Then I fling the song across the land
where it gathers dust and dreams
before submerging
into the soft black of my home.

Gorgeous poem, Stuart.

And from my experience, I write poetry and paint from the same seeing place in my mind's eyes... prose is more "hearing", though there certainly is a blending back and forth. But yes, I do feel that.

Holy moly, Christina, this gave me chills. Those images are just so powerful.

I love this so much I am going to read it again later. So beautiful. "her tale makes a fog/ above her tea" just did me in.

Just the sounds of your words alone, Susannah, are so voluptuously gorgeous, reflecting the wooing and seduction in this wonderful poem. Love it.

So sad and so true. I absolutely adore "carrying people who
cannot fly on their own."

Such a beautiful spell-binding scene.

This is absolutely gorgeous, Phyllis. That last line... just breath-taking.

Thanks to you all for sharing these moving, lovely stories. It's wonderful to be able to come here to let the imagery wash over me.

I so appreciate the discussion about the way we process image, language and many of you let the three mingle in the mind until the story chooses its own creative outlet. There was a long time in my professional career as a violinist I truly believed (in my brain-washed state) I must not venture outside the art in (for?) which I had been formally trained...rules, form, perfection. It was a very stunted life bred from a challenged childhood. Thankfully, I escaped that mind-set through a creative community such as this. Now language and image has become an experimental playground. I'm rough and offer up many skinned knees, but I'm free.

Thank you and Terri again with all my heart :)

The Noon Stag

It is time, she says, don’t be late, and
she draws the moon upon my brow,
hurry up, she ushers
and opens her back door.

Noon Sun, gleaming white,
blurring heat, birds are silent.
Sweat runs in streams,
hair sticks to skin,
nostrils flare, I know,
he is here.

Carefully I set my feet,
lust ignites from heat,
eyes scanning the forest border.
There – antlers among bushes.
Breath held, body shakes,
remembering wells up, deeply, powerfully.

Land and king are one,
Goddess is Earth is land is me.
Sacred union, needed
to change people’s fate.
Horned One, I’m waiting. Come.
Hoof beats ground.

Meeting in the shade,
old oaks quivering like poplars.
Mouth finds mouth, kiss seals
ancient pact, time stands still.
Goddess and God meet,
bed of herbs rustles.

Sun and Earth united,
perfect balance obtained,
waves of lust spreading,
high tide of noon heat.
Antlers beat bushes,
Earth is blessed.

Spark of new life, shining
within dark womb,
sacred union, complete –
energy pulses through ley-lines,
Tor Hill glows with power,
harvest is safe.

Last embrace, deep emotions,
definite recognition.
Stag flees to the shadows,
I walk my way home
as in a dream.
Broom bows in reverence.

She awaits me
smiling, with sacred water,
blesses my head, breasts, yoni,
draws the moon upon my brow,
waves at me impatiently
to follow her.

Back on the island,
apple blossoms fall,
round are moon and belly,
blessed life, Grainné,
Daughter of the Sun, will be.
It is done.

Powerful and moving, Stella. I so understand the pain of the selkie with the stolen skin... this just stings, but truthfully so, the way saltwater stings wounds. Beautiful.


Some women realise they are bored with skin,
choose other lovers. Sometimes they havefur
or scales or feathers. Clever girls prefer
the slick and wet and smooth. It's not a sin.

We humans marry out. It's what we do.
The tiger's bride knows better than to flee
feeling his hot breath. Special ecstasy.
He eats her, but in love, and does not chew

but swallows whole. Rasps thrilling with his tongue
as she goes down. The seal bride plunges deep
taking her lover with her, half asleep.
Drowning is almost like becoming young

and being comforted. A better fate
than waits most women on a human date.

I wrote this last year for a challenge to create an image accompanied by a cinquain poem. (Below is a link to the image on Facebook if you'd like to see it)

East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon

Waxen, gallant
Ceding, questing, washing
Tallow rushlight threatens union

The Crane Husband
by Joel LeBlanc

Into each conference call
and spreadsheet and
balanced invoice, I sewed
my cloud feathers long ago.
But that doesn't stop
the crane dreams. In them
my family, richly adorned
in their holy cloaks of
black and white
are all around me;
a siege of sky kings
marching down to the water,
feet darting and dancing
between raindrops
seeking out jeweled fish
in a spring tide.
There is no working day
to clock here, just the
voiceless pull of the turning
tide and the smell of the seasons.
Somewhere on the muddy shore
the voice of a land-woman,
someone I know I know,
is calling me.
But I just fly away.
When I wake up
and turn to hold
my still, warm wife,
I breath in her smell -
earth, dust, skin -
and I pray
for the dreams
to let me sleep.

Wow, love this Christina! Just divine.

Aw...thank you.

...Then I fling the song across the land/ where it gathers dust and dreams...

Wow. This could be set to a dance...

Adapted from an earlier-written poem.


Envy the dawn
and free-feathered maidens 'ere to wake.
Destiny doesn't hesitate to drink
from tearful flows of alluvial dreams
not meant to be.
Willfully clinging with hardened heart
he shivers by the lake house.
Jilted thief.

Eeeek - "Destiny doesn't," should read
"Destiny does not..."

Thanks Phyllis! What sort of dance, do you think?

The Fox Wife
by Theodora Goss

I saw you dancing in a glade alone,
feet bare and dressed in nothing but a rag,
your red hair like a fire around your head.
I had to stand and look and keep on looking.

I saw you standing there among the trees,
smelled you before I saw you. First, I thought
you were a hunter. But no, you smelled of earth,
not death. I danced because I saw you looking.

Day after day, I went back to that glade.
And sometimes you were there, and sometimes not.

That was deliberate. I did not want you
to always get what you were coming for.
One day you stepped into the glade and spoke:
“I have been watching you. Can you forgive me?”

I wanted to say more: you burn so brightly,
I wonder that the forest is still standing.
You are more graceful than a flock of doves.
You should be dressed in silk instead of rags.
I am only a farmer, but I love you.

And yet somehow you said all of those things.
At least, I heard them and I followed you
out of the forest and into the farmyard.
The dogs barked, but you would not let them near me.

I did not know why all the dogs were barking.
What was it made you come? Now tell me truly.
Was it the possibility of finding
a home, a husband, not some soggy burrow?

That, I suppose. And then you looked so handsome.
And then there were the dresses, silk as promised.
I could have done worse than a prosperous farmer.

Or better: you would make a splendid lady,
upon your horse and riding by his lordship.

You flatter me. But then, you know I like it.
When I was heavy with our oldest son,
you told me I still looked just like the girl
you first saw dancing in the forest glade.

And so you did. Now dear, be reasonable . . .
Were we not always happiest together,
on rainy afternoons when you sat sewing
and I would read to you from some old book?
Or when we would go walking in the spring
to see the glade you dance in filled with bluebells?
Or when we watched our sons and daughter sleeping,
three heads with hair like fire upon the pillows.
Where are they now? Where are our children, dear?

Down in the burrow, safe from you and yours.

I would not hurt a hair upon their heads.

You hung my sister’s pelt upon the door.
You said there had been foxes in the henhouse.
You set those traps and did not think to tell me.

But how was I to know? Be reasonable . . .

Each night, while you lay sleeping, I snuck out.
A thing that was once wild is never tame.
I went to smell the earth, to meet my kind.
I went to see the bright disk of the moon.
You set those traps and caught my sister in one.
And what should I see on the henhouse door
next morning when I went to gather eggs?
Our children are asleep inside this burrow.
Your dogs would tear them up within an instant.

But dear, they’re human too, you can’t deny that.

Your dogs would. They shall learn the forest paths,
learn how to hunt, how to avoid the hunter.
They shall be cold in winter, wet in storms,
they shall eat mice and rabbits, roam the meadow,
drink from the streams and try to catch the birds.
When they are grown, they’ll put on human skins
and go into the town, but I shall warn them
never to fall in love. Not with a human.

Why can’t you see that I meant you no harm?
I did not know . . . My dear, won’t you forgive me?

I am not tame. I can’t be reasoned with,
and there is no forgiveness in the forest.
Either kill me with that gun you carry,
or go.

He went. The birches heard him weeping.

“The Fox Wife” copyright © 2013 Theodora Goss

Oh, I love this! Thank you for sharing!

There a wildness in the current of this poem that made me think of hooves sparking against rocks. The repetition was cunningly used. I love it.

That "Otter Woman" power is a real spine tingler! Thanks so much for sharing -- will have to chase down more poems by Mary O'Malley now.

What a powerful and beautiful poem! Lots of stark visuals and strong sensory stimuli. Definitely one of my favorites.

Just great... I adore everything by Theodora Goss!


I found him, my gentle scholar,
living in a ruined temple.
If he can stand my cooking--
the meat too rare for most--
and my rank smell,
if he can forgive the sight
of my red tail,
I will make him a good wife.
Beast or girl,
I pledge him a warm fire,
quiet for his studies
long into the night,
and any who disturb him
will know my teeth.

©2012 Asimov’s Magazine

Devastating. Just completely devastating.

I love this.


Excellent. This is my wife's favourite today -and mine too, but tied with Jane Yolen's.

This really made me think about what it would be like for a creature of water to live on dry land. Beautifully evocative. Well done.

Ah, you're a musician! I just commented on a poem of yours in another thread, saying that I'd like to hear it put to music. Now all makes sense.

Ouch! And yes indeed. Another excellent poem.

Poignant, compelling. Another one that's going to haunt me.

I like this.

Excellent. Here's where it really grabbed me:

'Where are they now? Where are our children, dear?
Down in the burrow, safe from you and yours.
I would not hurt a hair upon their heads.
You hung my sister’s pelt upon the door.'

Brutal, and lovely too.

What can I say? You are the Master. This is simply brilliant.


Red all over.

Starting with the cheeks.


thank you raquel! :)

My late entry -

Beauteous without,
A glistening snake within
From woman’s curving lips to anus
His bride feels herself to be

These are wonderful. So many different voices and different approaches to the theme; so many different myths, fairy tales, and folk tales referenced; so much insightful, thoughtful feedback on the poems.

The creativity and generosity of the Mythic Arts community continues to amaze me.

I've got two that come to mind, and both of them deal with feathers and wings... the first is a true story (of a sort), the second was told to me by the woods I used to live in...

And then she flies

Clouds, in braids of white
caress cerulean sky:
Silky strands
of Grandmother Gaia
encircling the Earth.

Seeds, in fields of grain
arise, brush the sky:
Swaying stalks,
leaves drinking Sun and Rain
while roots hold firm the Earth.

And there, am I:
the fields passed by,
riding fast beneath the sky.

Wings, in power unfurled
touch once nodding grains:
Swiftly soaring
parallel lines of flight, her eyes catch mine
and hold, tender as her talons are strong.

Motionless, we move together
she flies, I ride:
Shared souls
above and beside fields of grain
dancing over Earth.

And then she flies:
arcing behind, spreading wings filling the skies,
upward she climbs, the world echoing with her cries.

And then she flies
and with her still, am I.

Copyright © 2006 Everett Ambrose Warren

~ ~ ~

Frost Raven

from a dream
and you're not there;
From my side you've flown
through the forests bare,
my heart clutched in your grasp.

Fly high,
Frost Raven,
across starlit skies.

Upon the sill you perched
as I lay in slumber,
and within my dreams you danced;
Worlds I've created for you
shimmer and fade
as you wander far away.

Fly away,
Frost Raven,
Away, my heart's desire.

Full moon glamour
glittering in my eyes
but no one can see what isn't there;
Through the darkness of Winter
I call to you, ignoring the answer
as the winds whisper goodbye.

Fly high,
Frost Raven,
Winter's tears she cries.

I touch the window pane
and feel the coldness of the glaze
you've left behind;
Caressed the land with your touch,
every blade of grass sings
with glassen tones but I melt alone.

Fly away,
Frost Raven,
Away from Love's fires.

Copyright © 2004 Everett Ambrose Warren

This one first appeared in Aberrant Dreams.

The Animal Bridegroom

Sure, she’d wondered if it might happen:
third daughter, impoverished kingdom,
no princely prospects at any distance
from which news or rumors came.

Destiny. She knew how the stories went.
Don’t bring the candle to bed
Don’t open the secret door. Don’t leave;
or if you leave, come back.
But … a rooster?

She did her best to break the spell:
kissed his beak, his comb, stroked
his bright hackle feathers, let him
perch on her chair, crap on her pillow,
crow in her ear. She fed him sweet corn,
oyster-shell, and rosebeetles,

fed coq au vin to the first wandering peddler
who strolled through the castle gates.

Hi Sylvia

So nice of you to read my read my poem and comment so graciously on it. I am very grateful for your thoughtfulness
and am glad you enjoyed this!

Thank you

Hi Alicia

And thank you so much for reading this piece! I am so glad you enjoyed it!

Best regards

Hi Carina

Yes, I can imagine her running through the woods sparking flame against stone wall or those stones in her path. I love that interpretative observation. Thank you so much for reading my work and sharing your thoughts!

Best regards

Hi Jack

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my work! I am so glad you l liked and enjoyed it!

My best

I always let the poem decide the form ~ definitely an instinctual thing. I have gone through phases, left-jutifying poems at times, but for the most part I like to see mine centered, even when I'm (rarely) using a form like the sonnet.

In this case, the form definitely works well with the words, but I can see it as prose as well.

Beautifully written!

I am amazed, and honored. And surprised in such a beautiful Bestiary.

OMGosh, Jack, you have solved an ongoing puzzle for me! Thank you, thank you! I've been telling a personal story in bits and pieces of words and collage for a long time, but I've never found a comfortable way to tell it from beginning to end. Last week, Terri posted Loreena McKennitt's (a favorite) gorgeous rendition of Yeats' "Stolen Child," and I melted. Last night, I kept humming a strange celtic-like melody and actually was driven to write it down. I GET IT! I'm writing lyrics to myself, and that's why I can't let go of overly archaic language in poems. I think I know where to go from here. :)

Apologies for the long post, but I'm sooo grateful for this wonderful week! Thanks again, Jack, and everyone.

Thank you, Jack.

Glad you liked it Jack. :)


I gaze across canyon

Twisted trees cling

Slab atop cliff

Overhang crimson gorge

Listen sings wind

Great pine body

I slip into bed with snake


Animating bones

Shapeless noise twists flesh


And again


Six legs and wings rub mine

In rhythm

Become vibrant exciter

Laughing melody cloud

Tickle ripple wrinkle

Swallow screams

I spin out of sky

Awakening all creature

Capture wind

Dance and wind

Catapult high

Across face of tower cloud


Sky shatters earth

Boom Boom Boom

Every stone shudders

Until silent

Bison steals eyes

Holds and takes

Until death

incredible poem. disturbing. powerful!

Tam Lin

you must hold onto him until he becomes a man again

she holds on tight
he is a flamingo, biting her cheek
a snake, golden scales in muscular coils
a lion, hot breath and teeth on her neck
a stork, sharp beak (through her brain)
a pademelon, dainty paws crossed, calm eyes open

she lets go
it doesn't seem right to ask him to be less than what he is

--Francesca Myman

Chiming in late. :)

"Be bold, be bold, but not too bold"
An act of light, the love I gave you,
blinding prudence with scintillation,
And you bid me follow you home.
The road to hell is paved in white.
Moonlight shrouds the red
of tooth and claw,
Like a well-drest beast.
You pawed at me in primal ravening,
Pinned my wrist beneath your hunger,
which was my right, and all you left.
The remains of other affairs mounted above your mantle,
Wedding bands still attached to hands;
A grim chiromancy.
But girls go on without hands, heels, tongues:
we endure and escape to bear witness,
if only in drops of blood along the path,
calling to those who would not be victims.

And this:
You are the darkness of
decay on my side;
The unsightly tail
peeking beneath petticoats,
The backside of branches
I must never show.
As much a part of me
as unacknowledged nights
down the backstair,
And as visceral a need.

Wendy Froud's 'The Horned Man' statue is so powerful!

Something modern, though it isn't really modern now, sort of Twila Tharp and swoopy, with feather costumes and in the background, softly, eery string and reed music. Not
quite Glass. A little more like ancient revisions. I will not go into the kitchen and practice

That should be 'I will NOW go into the kitchen...."

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