Night-Blooming

Flowers never really suited you, did they?
You didn’t ask to be made, woven together
from beautiful but unsubstantial stuff:
Quickly blossoming, quickly fading,
Fair of face but weak of substance,
And made by men’s magic not to exist in your own right,
But to be a thing — a pretty decoration, a yielding toy,
Or at best a willing bedwarmer for yet another man.
“Wife”, they might have called you,
but the name “slave” would have suited as well.
Which is to say, not at all.
It was assumed you’d be willing:
grateful for your existence,
grateful for any scrap of affection tossed in your direction,
grateful to the ones who made you
as hounds must accept the leavings tossed from master’s table.
But some hounds bite the hand that feeds them,
discontented with scraps,
deeming themselves more worthy of
not just the truth of love, nor of a fairer fare,
But unwilling to accept a life in a box made ready for them:
Do this, go there, fetch that,
And always, heel!
Was it simply that you worried where Lleu’s eyes might turn
once your blossoms started to wilt?
I think not:
I think that those magicians, like all men,
Conflated ‘wilt’ with ‘will’,
Tried to bar the slow development of one
by barring the other,
and failed.
Slow, it grew within you, this thing called desire:
this maddened mood–
not merely desire for another form or face in your bed,
but the desire to have your own will.
Never had they asked you what your choice might have been,
to exist as field of blossoms, or maid of radiant beauty,
or not at all.
And if they failed to take into account this elemental question,
then surely no other desire of yours did they concern themselves with.
So, yes, desire:
The desire to be more than just some pretty man’s pretty toy,
the desire to make your own choices, born of free will,
the desire to set yourself apart from him, whatever the consequences,
And so you did.
A woman’s sweet voice might wheedle all sorts of interesting information
from one who should know better than to divulge such secrets;
Too, a woman’s sweet voice — sweeter than the nightingale,
sweeter than the fragrance of meadowsweet — might entice another man
to put good use to such secrets:
in the moment between night and day,
neither inside nor outside,
neither naked as a babe from the womb nor clothed in king’s raiment,
not on foot and not astride,
and with no weapon made by the hand of lawful man.
In the end, did it matter much that the one who you were made for
returned from the death that did not take him?
Did it matter much, that the one you traded him for died instead?
Did it matter much, that one of the magicians who made you
tracked you down and changed those flowers to feathers?
After all, flowers never really suited you, did they?
Far better, the silent sweep of wing
the strength of night-bird’s claws,
the eyes that pierce the darkness,
the beak that sunders bone,
And better by far, the hunter’s will that knows no master.
The white disc of your wide-eyed face blooms by night,
Fairer by far than the flowers of oak and broom and meadowsweet,
–and freer, as well.

[Jennifer Lawrence likes the fey and the strange, which explains most of her friends. Her interests include gardening, herbalism, mythology and fairy tales, theology, Celtic music, role-playing games, horror movies, and the martial arts. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Aphelion, Jabberwocky 4, Cabinet Des Fees, Goblin Fruit, and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina anthology Unbound: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Artemis. She lives somewhere near Chicago.]

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