POETRY SHOWCASE - A RIDE THROUGH FAERIE by Clay F. Johnson

Enchanted Conversation's
POETRY SHOWCASE
Presents
CLAY F. JOHNSON
She looked at him fierce with eyes of faceted
Emerald, insouciant & imperious,
Tinctured with poetic madness, and said:
Oh, my dear artless boy, but I am the moonlight...

Part I
The Felling of the Tree

With each stroke from an axe of earthly metal,
Woodchips of silver luminescence fell
Like broken witch-stones, shards of fallen stars,
Consumed by the earth they became buried dreams

Spiraling smoke whispered from each tree-wound,
Breathing death of cold enchantment, nebulae-
Swirls of frozen dreams, worlds undiscovered,
Unknown, un-sought, and unimaginable

Music of cold crystal echoed like voices
Of spirits, violin-strains of c-sharp minor
Lingering forever in the ether,
Breathing new life into the bones of new death

Out of the cold whispers and spirit-voices
Of living music appeared a sleeping serpent—
Shaken from its dreaming, it awakens,
Slithering sublime through its buried storms

Its scales were pale as if touched by moon-cancer,
As if kissed by frost on silver-plated glass—
Yet its slithering left liquid fire, dark ash
From Amazon-flames burning inconsumable

Even stars can see the rainforest-fires breathing
Death into the lungs of the Earth, like the black hole
That swallows the dead star, consuming life from death
Until it lives as one sphere of two dead eternities

The axman, Lord Ortho, saw no broken gems,
No luciferous stardust of Venus,
No dreamy star-trails, no silver-slithering
Serpent and heard no music of cold whisperings

The tree fell into the arms of its ancient
Woodland, spongy with old-growth undisturbed,
Existing when the world was a living emerald
Growing unburdened atop waves of rolling sapphire

Its mayflower-blooms were in full life, holding
The frosts of starlight, a singular flame
Of witches’ light that self-reflects the past life
Once lived within the borders of twilight

Slipping farther away, the mayflower-blooms
Of snow-frosted white still held onto life,
Still held the magic of the dying light,
Within the captured twilight, breathless, yet alive

Severed from Her ancient roots, the dying tree,
Once called The Staff of Awilda, absorbed
The springtime’s life of death, its mysteries,
Its branches of living magic twisting each to each

Ortho the Tree-killer, or realtor in chief
The voices named him, begins further destructions
Of the ancient woodland, treading upon
Once untrodden bluebells, fay-slippers, and foxgloves

Drunk on wildflowers and violets, deeply purpled
When alive and absorbing the cold starlight—
Drunk in vain, for in death the purples change
To a wrinkled face of yellow-leaf decay

For the ruin of centuries of growing life,
The creation of his human home took no time,
Mere weeks, finished before the summer solstice—
Long before Litha, heathen-fires and tree worship

Ostentatious & tasteless his home consumes
All flora & fauna, all peace & harmony,
All magic of once growing & singing views
Of natural aesthetic & silent solitude

Babbling day & night like a noisome magpie
That murders the song of the nightingale,—
Nowhere near as clever—he silences
The living music that breathed for eternities


Part II
The Moonlight Meeting
of Lord Ortho and Setareh

She awoke with the last days of spring, bringing
New night-music among the ruined woodland
As light footsteps fell softly upon dead flowers,
Awakening new life upon the midnight hours

Beneath her feet slithered beautiful things,
Creatures wrapped with luminescent serpent-scale,
Flickering like ghost-candles of black opal—
The coldest glow of the will-o’-the-wisp flame

Within the woodchips of once-living bark
Crawl tree-worms reflecting cold stars, swimming
Delirious through drippings of Venetian glass,
A liquid lust from teardrops of blue goldstone

Within the littered decay of dead flowers
Of livid purples and corrupted blues
Lives a new light, a new perfection of Night,
Living for new death in ethereal hues

Above her floating hair floats pale whisperings,
Flutterings of shadow, gossamer-winged
Sylphs, spirits of the diaphanous air,
Silken delicate they manifest fine & fair

Born from death, from the dying of the light,
From the withering of flowers & ice,
The frosts of starlight, bleeding old life
With a liquid kiss it consumes itself in new life

New life, new to this world, but not the Other,
Not to the mysteries of celestial light,
Nor to the songs of starlight—No, its bright life
Has been buried deep, deep within oceans of time

Yet, in recent times, such life has been nightmared,
Falsely called evil by obsequious minds,
Bedeviled with names of demons & devils,
And blamed for all the world’s wrongs & ills & troubles

And even she, the one who walks light-footed
Atop scattered tree-bark and flowers murdered
By the hypocrisy of artless men,
Has suffered the misogyny of unjust names:

Mother by first pagans, and Goddess Divine,
Then Astarte, Pandora, Aphrodite,
Child-eating Lamia, Eve the snake-friend,
And La Belle Dame sans Merci with her wild, wild eyes

She was born from a whisper, a tree-shadow,
A lingering of dark from the Evening Star—
Yet she absorbed the starlight, consumed its dreams,
And became The Fated Star, or green-eyed Setareh

And thus it is she who walks in the starlight,
Not in beauty, but in cold philosophy,
In the human ruin of ancient plant-life
In pursuit of sick lust for life of luxury

Long did she linger in the cold starlight,
Misty-eyed with deep despair, crystalizing
Each emerald of green within her spectral eyes
With a mystery of unfathomable life

Until she peeled off her skin of star-shadow
And became the moonlight, drowning out all stars
With a brilliance of pure silver stellaria
And cold & sick became green-eyed Setareh

Silently sorrowful she stood as if captured
In a single beam of haunted moonlight,
Changed, like a face behind casketed glass,
Entranced with her own self-absorption for wrath

Though cancered by moon-silver, she remained
Ever beautiful, as if the pale new light
Revealed a new magic within her eyes,
Unveiled only in moonlight like enchanted gems

From his window Ortho saw the new moon
Burning the black sky like an orb of white-fire,
And beneath its cold beams he saw her, Setareh,
Glowing as if her skin was sick with its silver

He ran out into the night to seek her,
Not only to demand from her why she dare
Trespass on his land, but to touch her flesh,
To see if she was real or shadow or elf

Though her foot was light, it was swift as she
Glided effortlessly through the rotting woodland,
Still fresh with livid moisture of new decay
Fragrant with spring’s mayflowers withering last breaths

But he caught her, and grasped her by the wrist—
Her emerald eyes already saw through him,
And, as if glamoured by spell-craft, he said:
Like the night, do you follow your inner moonlight?

She looked at him fierce with eyes of faceted
Emerald, insouciant & imperious,
Tinctured with poetic madness, and said:
Oh, my dear artless boy, but I am the moonlight

Like many men before him, and many more
After him, he wanted to possess her,
To own her, and as artless as he was,
He knew of but one way: to marry her

Still glitter-eyed by her emerald eyes,
Enchanted deep with a charm of waking sleep,
And without once asking for her star-born name,
He proposed without ring or ceremony

My witless boy, she said, my people will object,
And they will bear me away from this woodland wreck—
But surely you are brave and strong and would protect
Me from harm or wrong…in these words do you respect?

Though his knavish eyes never once held poetry
Nor beheld a vision or great mystery,
They now shone senseless with hope, and he said: Lady,
I am master of axe and sword—I will own your safety

There they married, on the solstice, within a beam
Of her own moonlight, surrounded unseen
By her creatures of night-life slithering
And swimming through the drippings of human ruin

Now husband & wife, they walked back along
A brilliant path of pure moonlight, and Ortho
Knew not why—his mind, though still enchanted,
Was bent on his new bride, which he deemed his prize

As she stepped inside Ortho’s pretentious home,
Tasteless with vulgar rooms of wasted space,
She peeled off her skin of moonlight and became
Darker light, and Ortho’s eyes shone with new lust

She bid him go to his bedroom, and he did,
And he waited impatiently for her to come—
When she came she brought a glowing cup of tea:
It was opium to lust, poetry for artless dreams


Part III
Fragment of a Dream

Absorbed like bubbling honey
Consuming atmospheres of clouds,
The amber star dissolves all mists
And renews all living greens

It unrolled the rolling thunder
And buried it deep, deep within
The bracken & bramble,
Mingling colors & music

Quiet spirits fluttered
About the silk-woven air,
Capturing the fragrance
Of cresting sea-waves

Between the emerald
Shadows of silent grass
Wander busy life
Of gnomic mysteries

Collecting tea-potions
From flowery teacups,
Bluebells of changing sapphire,
Purpled by frosts of starlight

Richly frozen each night
They become ice-charms,
Whispering ghost quartz
Capturing living dreams

Each color holds a flavor,
And a vivid memory,
Released when dissolved
Into dreamy ecstasies

Spirits & gnomic mysteries
Consume their glowing tea
Like some shadow-haunted
Ghostly tea party

A rustling disturbed the quiet,
And silvery roots slithered
With dreamy obscurity
Like a serpent sleeping

Then all busy life stopped,
And there was dead silence,
The air was cold and all eyes
Fixed upon the dreamer

All eyes were of emerald
Faceted with glamour,
They held dreams poetical
And visions phantasmal

A rustling once more
Disturbed the dead silence,
And the sleeping serpent
Slithered and slept less deeply

From the emerald fires
Of their eyes shadows crept,
And with cold hands gave the dreamer
A leaf-fringed parchment that read:

“Writ with shadow upon this leaf
Lives a fragment from our spirit
Whom we lost upon thundering
Sea-waves of Italy”

Wake the serpent not—lest he
Should not know the way to go,—
Let him crawl which yet lies sleeping
Through the deep grass of the meadow!
Not a bee shall hear him creeping,
Not a may-fly shall awaken
From its cradling blue-bell shaken,
Not the starlight as he’s sliding
Through the grass with silent gliding


Part IV
Lord Ortho Awakens

Ortho wakes with the feeling of something cold
Slithering and coiling upon his throat—
But it is nothing more than a waking dream,
An aftereffect from his tea of poetry

Yet his waking dream was not all a dream,
For his new wife is gone, and in her place
Slithers a sickly serpent, moon-cancer pale,
Uncoiling upon a severed bluebell

Consumed by fear & rage & embarrassment
He goes to find his axe to kill the serpent—
But when he returns the serpent has vanished
And the bluebell now has a stem of silver glass

Outside his home stands with noble elegance
A pale horse, silvered by dawn’s early rays,
Unbridled and with eyes of spectral emerald
That reflect a thousand facets of mystery

With palm-sweaty hesitation he wraps his
Fingers around the steed’s ghost-silvered mane,
Pulling himself up with strange weightlessness
As if his flesh at once belonged to the Otherworld

With the lightness of a cloud, Ortho was borne
Away like the wind, in a sort of phantom-
Gallop—eerie silent except crystal sounds
Like ice-bells ringing upon the singing air

Racing full-stride toward a solitary
Thorn tree, in full mayflower bloom, the ghostly
Horse leaps headlong into its leafy shadow,
Glittering in its own darkness like black goldstone

Melting through the silver-thorn’s sparkled shadow
They materialize in the realm of Faerie
Crisp is the air tinted by auroral greens
Framing the glitter of silver-sugared leaves

In apparent search for his fay-stolen bride,
He rides full-long, from jade dusk till violet dawn,
Diffused like cold crystal rays of amethyst
That deepen with each phantom stride

After a single solitary day, the horse
Turns back, spiriting toward another haunted
Tree-shadow, glistening like a frozen moonbeam,
Leaps through waking Ortho from his Faerie dream

The horse takes him softly through familiar paths,
But they are untrodden, for the buried dreams
Of witch-stones grew into blooming new life,
And shards of stars gave birth to new breathings of trees

They stop at an old ruin and linger—
He knows this place, for it is the remains
Of his house, and growing out of the remnants
Twists living branches of the tree he once wasted

Nature-taken by centuries of time
His dwelling now stands as a vulgar relic—
He dismounts and shrivels to pale old life,
His horse dissolves to the shape of his missing wife

She unclothes him with her insouciant eyes,
Still imperious, still enchanted by moonlight,
Still emerald and faceted with mysteries,
And before he withers away to bone-dust, she says:

Hello, husband, do you remember this hawthorn tree?
Your axe of earthly metal bit into her with its teeth,
Waking the sleeping serpent, disturbing its buried dreams,
Closing a doorway between the moon & stars and death & sleep

Yet in human ruin there is no death, there is no change,
And in my garden I buried storms and melodies strange:
Thunder & music, whispers & slithers of fine & fair—
Yes, look deep, deep into my emerald eyes and despair

We were married two hundred years ago this very night,
Within my own moonlight, consumed by a single beam—
Haunted were the visions & shadows of your waking dream,
Though my names are many, kneel to me as your Faerie Queen.



Clay F. Johnson is an amateur pianist, devoted animal lover, and incorrigible reader of Gothic literature and Romantic-era poetry. His writing has been featured in the Horror Writers Association’s Poetry Showcase, nominated for a Rhysling Award, and recently received an honorable mention in The Best Horror of the Year. Find out more on his website at www.clayfjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @ClayFJohnson.

Cover Painting: Fairy and Griffon by Gustave Moreau
Graphic Layout: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff
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Comments

  1. This is my favourite poem by Clay thus far! Brilliant, poetic imagery of fantasy and folklore, but also so relevant in today's world -- the stanzas on the Amazon fires, destruction of forests, and Clay's use of Gothicism and feminism I really love. Brilliantly written and it has a great overall flow to it. Great post!

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  2. Visceral. The elegant journey Clay takes his reader on - from the dire state of our existing society to the enchanting realm of romantic gothicism, in what feels like effortless continuity, is an experience felt on every level; brought to a mournfully beautiful closure - creating chills through the spirit of his audience. A truly exceptional piece of work.

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