by Thomas Davis
The snow kept falling for a second day.
Wei looked at wood piled up inside the bin
And thought about the difficulty facing
Her if the wind kept growing drifts of snow.
At times the wind died down as giant flakes
Came drifting from the skies, and, looking out
The frost encrusted window by the door,
She saw how deep the drifts were piling up.
Each time the blizzard winds died down, they started
Again, ferocious, constant, howling rage.
As evening darkened skies, her nervousness
So great she felt half sick, she pushed the door.
It did not move, the snow too dense to move.
She strained to open up a crack. She stopped
And tried to force the panic rising up
Inside her chest to calm into her thoughts.
What could she do? She had potatoes still,
And onions. Though she needed meat for strength,
She would not starve, but wood! Beside the shed
Her daily work had built a high, square pile,
But if the drifts imprisoned her inside,
The fire would turn to ash and cold. What then?
She put her back against the door where cold
Seeped in. What then? The question froze her arms
And made her legs as heavy as her thoughts.
She had not cried since burying her mother,
But now she felt as if she was a little girl
Who needed comfort, needed mother’s love.
Her body heaved from sobs that made her shake.
The fire would die without more wood to burn.
She wailed aloneness, fear into the night.
She forced the sobs to end. She could have walked
The mountainside to stone built houses, walls,
But living in her dreams she’d thought her strength
Could let her stay beside her mother’s grave.
She got up from the floor and put a log
Into the embers red with dying flames.
And then, behind her and the fire. . . She turned.
The firelight dancing on the wooden floor,
She saw no source for noise. Her skin crawled, tingled. . .
Beside her mother’s empty bed the darkness
Seemed solid, like a pool that shimmered substance
Into a place where substance could not be.
Wei stared into the darkness, opened up
Her mouth and tried to scream, but silence swallowed sound.
Inside the pool of darkness, small, intense,
A light began to grow. Wei held her breath.
Her mother’s body, lined in pulsing light
Upon the narrow bed where she had died,
Began to weave her graceful arms and hands.
Wei gasped, her sudden grief subsumed by awe.
Her mother here? The storm outside so fierce?
The light glowed like her mother’s gentle smile,
And then an unreal darkness swallowed light;
Then darkness was the darkness of the night.
The sudden disappearance of the light
Hit Wei as if a fist had slammed her stomach.
The fire behind her felt as if the dark
Had fed its flames and made the cabin bright
As just before the day’s last light fled sky.
Wei straightened, looked into her hands, and saw
Her mother’s motions as she’d moved as light.
Wei walked, entranced, toward the window.
She made the pattern from her mother’s hands.
A web of burning light flowed from her fingers
Through window glass into the howling dark.
Her hands felt warm, as if the light she webbed
Through glass into the night was more than light.
The crusted frost upon the windowpane
Evaporated in the freezing dark.
Wei stopped the movement of her arms and hands.
Her mother, buried under snow, had given her
Survival from the storm, she thought. Her life.
The door would open as she moved her hands.
She’d melt a path to get more wood come dawn.
She had to think about the webs of light.
Her skill had uses she’d not understood.
She felt so tired she wondered if she’d stay
Awake enough to keep the fire alive.
The Heat of Light audio file
Note: This is the seventh installment of a long poem. Inspired by John Keats’ long narrative poem, Lamia, it tells a story set in ancient times when dragons and humans were at peace. Click on the numbers to reach other sections, or go to the Categories box to the right under The Dragon Epic. 1, 6 to read other parts of the epic. Go to 8 to reach the next section.