Sacrifice

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A woodland fantasy of deer, beauty and death

Photo by Andy Morffew.

The One Who Stayed

I warned her
blood of mine
blood spilt
always
I warn them
few listen

For I
have spent
hidden moments
behind the brush
eaten many leaves
smelled many secrets
outwitted many wolves
bid farewell to
too many of
my kin

Caution sisterling
stay your
delicate hooves
taste only
the sweet grasses
turn away
your curious nose
return to
the scent of your
own kind

But our kind
cannot speak
so I really
said nothing

On crisp mornings
before grazing
consumes my day
I hide behind
these rose bushes
nibble between
the thorns
wait for my
foolish kinfolk
wait and watch

I alone
in all of
the woods
know Her
really know
every name
Dark Smile
Warm Touch
Strange One
Goddess on
Two Legs
Goddess of
Hungry Love
Goddess of
Sweet Lies
on it goes

She watches me too
every day
nods to my fear
little glances
coy as one of us
now and then
reaching out
with those two
magnificent limbs
upon which She
need never walk
supple as tasty
young shoots

Yet I alone
have never
slipped out
to meet Her
given myself
up to eyes of
dawn sunlight
clean waters
green shade
eyes singing
I Need You
You Love Me
Will You Die
For Me

Oh I warned her
pretty sister of
my old grey heart
I warned them all
but even our kind
hungers for more than
sweet grass and fear
even we need faith
when death seduces
the weary heart
when time sings
weary eyes to close…

Photo by Andy Morffew.

The One Who Left

One morning
as I followed
my twin brother
teasing him for
his solitude
with little nuzzles

A Two-Leg crept up
in dawn’s shadow
never trust Two-Legs
I spun around to
my brother surely
he would point
the way home

But instead of
those handsome
thighs challenging
fate in a single leap

He froze
or rather stared
as did she
like an old owl
without fear
among us only the
dead never fear
my brother shivered

She looked and
smelled like
the entire forest
proud like Hawk
gentle like Mouse
solitary like Cat
silent like us all

Her eyes whispered
words to we who
have no words
I took a few steps
sampled some leaves
took a few steps
we are a timid and
a curious race
that is why we
can run so fast

She carried
twin milk sacks
I carry many more
nursed three fawns
does she bear
strong young
her feet seemed
heavy she moved
slow as roots
great horns grew
from silver locks
a swath of fur
loosely draped her
fur not her own
with a scent like
my brother’s
but much older

When at last
my nose touched
soft pink flesh
scent of jasmine
She rushed into me
milk roses rain
bellies full
every spring mating
every thirsty fawn
I rushed back
fawns lost to
wolves hunters
the hungry forest
run no time run
every moment
lost to survival
but not with Her
not this moment
this still moment
oh my brother
where are you
I have found
the way home

Then She flashed
a shiny thing and
from my throat
all of my warmth
poured to the ground
my heart leapt to
catch a lost scream
my eyes faded to
memories of Her eyes
and as the night
came too early
I knew only that
She was beautiful
I loved her
She needed me
and I was very scared…

Photo by Andy Morffew.

The One Who Waits

It’s all right
touch my finger
your sweet nose
tender fresh as
mountain streams
I’ll bet you’ve
never been tickled
behind such big ears
like woven baskets
gathering up dangers
Such wide eyes too
like the children’s
when they first
spy me dressed
as one of you
when I gaze
through them
I see a heart
without words to
give it release
a tale without
bard and hearth
so listen to my song
be not afraid
I wrote it for you

This is how I
feed my people
simple and pious
as any folk in
the far Wood
we fear the same
shadows as you
run from the same
distant echoes
pray the Wood
grants us a share of
harvest and joy
before taking it away
and the Wood always
takes it away

Our women do not hunt
our men often return
empty and hungry
some say we have
hunted here too long
the Wood knows us
too well fears that
we will hunt it
to death

I was born the day
an old buck protecting
his dying mate
gored my father
left our village
without its best archer
left my mother nothing
but a belly swollen
with tears

So the Wood
in mercy or warning
or maybe just
knowing us too well
gave the village
a demon child
a satyr’s joke
a newborn with
toes fused into
cloven feet

My mother
starving in grief
would throw us both
into the river
the villagers saw
omens and wept
but her mother
she had Sight
she saw their
loss as my gift

she took me up
bundled the infant
into her bony arms
hissed and spat and
declared that since
man and deer had
died for love
one day all deer
would love me

She kept me apart
let the people
grow used to me
let my mother come
only to nurse
when I grew older
she brought me to
this temple of wild
this altar of thorns
here I first met you
and here you have
always come

Now my hair is
moon colored
no longer does anyone
notice my clefts
for I am an old stone
still my heart quickens
when I awaken to dew
don the old buck’s
hide and horns and
my father’s blade
while the others sleep
slip from my hut
to where dawn gives
suck to thirsty grass
washes my calloused feet
my limp now a sacrament
leading me to where
new light spills
between ancient trees
the joy of a new day
another day alive
another day alone
waiting for my
silent children

Come home with me
my little friend
many years I have
watched you wait
day to endless day
for the coming of
the one dark mystery
your innocence
has allowed you
we are met

Give me your heart
I shall keep it safe
my people shall prosper
I shall serve them
you shall lose forever
your fears within
the life of one
who is neither
aging grandmother
nor lost child of
Mother Wood
come home with me
you love me
I need you
will you die
for me

Photo by Andy Morffew.

Text copyright © 1996 by David Arv Bragi. All rights reserved.

Photos copyright © by Andy Morffew. Some rights reserved.

David Arv Bragi is the editor of the grail blog and was the editor of New Tribal Dawn.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The preceding post originally appeared in the online multicultural journal New Tribal Dawn, which published essays, fiction and poetry from 1999 to 2007. Although the journal is no longer active, we are preserving its fine literary archive here for posterity.)

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