What the Fool Whispered to the Wentletrap
by Marly Youmans
And when I was a child there were certain ill things
That I felt—the plague, you know, black death, the lying in sheets
With my sister dead—that changed me, and my father,
You know what he was, that towering figure cut from fire,
Quick and surging high above my head and better
Than me, infinitely better—and then I fled away
And was a thief and worse, was dissolute and did
Corrupt sad things I don’t like to recall, and so I ran
Out of innocence into evil, and all these
Came flooding in and caused my transformation to a fool.
Afterward I lived in a bleached and leafless wood,
The slender trees going up straight to the sun and crowning
With a few spiked branches, and the bark all nibbled
Away, down low by the rabbits and higher by the deer
And even higher by what I had heard rustling
At night but never saw, curled in my nest of rotten leaves.
One sunny day I made myself a birchbark cap
And worked a shaker from a pod and berries tied to threads,
Then traded with the marsh people until I had
A frosted staff and silver rattle and hat of paper gilt,
And turned my face to the city of the Red King.
When he paused and listened to its counsel,
The wentletrap replied as is the way
With shells, offering susurration of sighs
And endlessness of lapping like the sea.