“The Dreaming” by Ruth Thompson
The princess Briar Rose, her mother the Queen, and all the court fall into sleep with the pricking of a finger. The crone, the dark fairy, also sleeps. They dream.
1. The Queen’s Dream
When her daughter was born the queen vanished.
Now she stands in her husband’s hall.
She opens her mouth and flames pour out.
All the court burns; the king goes up like kindling.
Ah, I’m a dragon, she thinks. But where is my gold?
She uncoils up the stairs in the ochre gleam of torches.
My daughter is my gold, she thinks.
But her daughter is not there. Only a pale doll
of stuffed silk.
Down its skirts, a tracery of blood.
In the shadows, an old woman, turtle head sunk
upon her breast.
Darkness glimmers from eyefolds.
“You’ve a long journey,” she says. “Don’t forget to write.”
The queen walks out of the castle. The thorns blow
and bow before her.
She takes a blood rose and puts it in her hair.
This is mine, she says.
Naked she walks into the river.
It carries her between golden willows and pink granite.
The sun pours into her belly.
The antlered trees bend down to her.
She takes a red stone and puts it on her sex.
This is mine, she says.
Before her is a caravan, red and yellow,
and a black horse waiting.
Inside the caravan are dresses embroidered with birds.
This is mine, she says, and takes up the reins.
Now I shall find my daughter.
2. The Princess’s Dream
The princess steps out of her carcass
out of its golden hair and the soft white flesh
of being careful.
She steps out small, thorny, brown,
wearing a crown of oak leaves
with a cluster of acorns like small penises.
She drops to all fours and climbs out the window
down through the thorn hedge
and there is the forest, leaning against the castle.
His skin is bark, his arms are branches,
small bright eyes peer from the green foliage of his hair.
She walks right into the forest. She climbs up
and climbs down.
When night comes she dances.
Her eyes are round wells of moon, mouse-fall, bird-fly.
The antlered trees bend down to her;
the forest shapes himself to suit her.
In the morning, her mother comes riding a black horse,
sun-gilded and apple-ripened in her dress of birds.
You are my daughter, she says.
I am, says the girl.
3. The Crone’s Dream
But what of the dark fairy, the wisewoman, the crone?
She has given the gift of all this dreaming; what now?
At the edge of dark water
galaxies streaming in and out of her eye sockets
she stands so long that weeds
grow and bloom and dry
between her finger joints.
At last she wades out into moonfall.
Everything is shining and invisible.
Oh, she goes far in her dream, this one.
In the end she knows nothing at all.
Then all around her is laughter and the calling of whales.
Ochre light opens her eyelids.
She walks out of the sea and becomes a man.
She walks out of the river and becomes an apple tree.
She walks out of the story and all the clocks begin to chime.
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Ruth Thompson Artist Statement:
Ruth Thompson is the author of Crazing, Woman With Crows, and Here Along Cazenovia Creek.
In Crazing, Ruth writes about dementia, physical dissolution, and the death of the earth
whose body she shares. Woman With Crows explored the archetypal feminine journey through
darkness. It was a finalist for AROHO’s To The Lighthouse Prize. Ruth’s poems have won
the New Millennium Writings, Harpur Palate, and other prizes. Here Along Cazenovia Creek was
choreographed and performed by the great Shizuno Nasu.
Ruth received a BA from Stanford and a doctorate in English from Indiana University. She
now lives in Hilo, Hawai’i, where she teaches meditation, yoga, and writing; collaborates on
poetry and dance videos; and runs Saddle Road Press. She identifies as, and writes about
being, a joyous, powerful old woman.
For more information, poems, reviews, and videos, please see www.ruththompson.net. Ruth
talks about her poetry here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obJBbK99zkQ.