Written for Parrish Relics by
Kerrie Colantonio McNay

 


CIRCE

Circe waited, preparing her herbs, blessed with the love of her father, Helios, and the tears of her mother, Perse.

They would come, they would all come, and stay.

Forever.

Her sister knew the ways, yet Calypso would share none. She had no need of charms or potions; she had her beauty, her long, glorious hair that shone like the moon upon the ocean. Men would wrap themselves, bury themselves in that hair, forgetting all others, remembering only the sea, the cruel and majestic sea that always brought them to her.

No, Calypso could teach none of that to her. She had her own ways.

Circe crept around her grotto: flames, flickering in every crag that would hold oil, dancing with her shadows. Light and dark darted from each other, reaching, yet never touching.

Coral and pearl, crushed into a fine powder, mixed with seawater in an abalone shell, and poured over her hair should do the trick. She combed the fusion through: each strand must be covered, separated, filled with the sea.

Only the sea.

 


EVIL

Mist began to creep along the forest floor
as Jonas tried to find the path he had followed in. Hours, it seemed, had passed since he entered the wood, yet the light had not changed its brightness. Diffused through the branches, refracted through each droplet in the fine mists, the sunlight did not cease nor seem to move, and Jonas could not tell the time. Perhaps it was the moon that now shone, he thought. Willows and birches grew everywhere, and only the gaps between them gave any hint at a path, though none were recognizable.

Evil, whispered a voice behind him.

Jonas started, falling against a stand of thin birches that caught and threw him back to his feet. He could see no one, only the mist and the light, seeming to grow thicker and brighter.

Eeeevilllllllll.

Jonas felt something brush against his leg, but could make out nothing, only the mist rising. Then he saw it- the mist, like fine arms and hands, began to wrap around his legs, curling, reaching, pulling.

Suddenly, a cry burst forth, maybe from Jonas, maybe from the mist, and there was the path, the mist pulling back, the light dappled on the leaves of newly budded yearlings.

 



PACEM

Pacem, Pacem, Pacem…

The hymn rang throughout the cathedral, but all the urchin could hear from the outside was “Pacem,” over and over, like a mantra. It was if an angel were whispering in her ear, bidding her heart be still.

Covered by heaping blankets upon pillows upon mattresses of snow, the streets remained untouched. With the entire town at the vigil services, it would remain so for at least another hour. Sitting in the corner, she huddled beneath a dusty double wedding ring quilt she had rescued from an alley only days before. A little present to herself, she had thought at the time. If one was more than a few yards away, he might think she was huddling beneath the snow. But the flakes all seemed to melt as soon as they touched the fabric, blocking the icy cold and keeping her warm beneath its fading softness.

Pacem, Pacem, Pacem…

Soon the crowds would pour out into the crisp night. But for now, it was her own giant quilt, on a giant bed, in a giant palace.

Sleep would come easy tonight.

 



HOPE

"Hope,” she whispered.
Pandora lifted the bracelet from the box, all that was left from her younger, bolder days.

She fingered the beads, let the chain slip through her hands. Cool against her wrinkling fingers, the clicking beads soon sent her into a calm, relaxed state. She needed that, after what happened; she needed the repetition to calm her heart, to soothe her anxiety, her fears.

She looked down at the box that lay in her lap, a small replica of that fateful box she opened long ago. Never again did curiosity reign over reason. Never did she question what was asked of her. Beauty was skin deep, even for boxes, and aside from this one she had custom made, she never opened another. She only looked upon them, content with not knowing their contents, but appreciating the secrecy that warranted their casing.

“Yes, there is still hope for me yet.”

 

 



WICKED

Bending over the parchment, carefully forming each letter, each word, each sentence, Caery gripped her hand, holding the pen steady, lest a drop of ink mar the page.
Words hold power, she remembered in her father’s voice.

Names hold the life of their bearer, verbs are as potent as the deeds they describe, adjectives hold true if you truly believe in them.

Father, she wrote at the top of the page, continuing counterclockwise with

Mother

Sisters

Life

Death

Love

In the centre she wrote:

Reverse the curse that binds me to you,
Destroy the spell you believe to be true,
Release the hold that should never have been,
Return to life the death I have seen.

Caery laid down her pen and picked up a small block of brown wax. She held her hand over the candle flame, teasing the fire, testing her strength, withdrawing almost immediately. Turning the wax over the flame, catching the melting drops on the block before it snuffed the candle out, she held it there until enough of the block was soft enough to use. Quickly she withdrew the block and, with a practiced hand, smeared the top left corner with wax, pressed a grayed and dust-soaked scrap torn from her work-dress into the center, and pressed the block again on top.

She folded the page into quarters, stuffed it into the exact center of her pressed herbal, and re-shelved it.

Done.

 



ESTELLA MARIE

Estelle Marie glanced at her reflection in her washbasin. Saltwater tears, dew from hawthorn blossoms, rainwater, violet petals, and her green-hazel eyes looked back at her. Wind rustled the sheer drapes and more blossoms in a basket. One leapt out and landed at Estelle’s feet.

Star of the Sea, she whispered.

She lifted the blossom and laid it on the water’s surface, gently letting go as it began to float.

As if pulled by a thread, the blossom began to circle the edge of the basin, the violet petals gathering in the center to let it pass. Estelle looked up- the drapes lay still, the breeze had stopped, nothing moved but for the blossom.

Sprite, she gasped, eyes wide, staring at the basin. Are you here?

 

 



MAIDEN

Please, give up your heart to me?
The young maiden walked through the marketplace, veils draped about her head and body, a silver veil covering her face. If she could but find a man with no fear, one who could gaze upon her without consequence, then she would be free.

But how could she manage that, how could she find a man- nay, man or woman- who could gaze upon her and survive that power which bound her so? She seemed doomed to live out her days alone.

“Gorgons!” rang out through the streets, a young boy stumbling, knocking over several shields and breast-plates.

Soon the marketplace was in a frenzy. Women with their babes, soldiers, merchants, children, all running to hide in the nearest shelter they could find.

All save for the maiden.

She looked back on the empty street to see two writhing masses- for what else could you call these creatures?- slinking about, searching for something as yet unknown to them, it seemed. They stopped barely a yard from the young woman, as she greeted them,

“Hello, sisters.”

 



ENCHANTED

Faerie ‘chant this ribbon o’ mine,
‘round this branch of willow twined,
Grant my wishe, this night, I pray,
Bestow love ‘pon me, ‘pon morrow’s day.

Willa tucked the end of the ribbon through, securing it to the branch. It blew in the wind, beads clinking and shining in the moonlight.

He has to pass this way each day, she thought. It will catch his eye, but he won’t know it’s there.

Willa sank back to her heels, letting the branch spring back up, the pale green ribbon blending with the leaves.

Perfect, she whispered.

 

 



MUSE

"Teri, can you please stand still?”
Mnemosyne had brushed out her daughters’ hair each and every night. Tonight was no different.

Terpsichore was to perform alongside the Chorean maidens, her students. In honor of Dionysus, in collaboration with the Dionysian Maenads, they were to herald the summer’s harvest. She was to dance in the center, joining the two groups, mothers and maidens alike, in this celebration of the fruits of the town’s labors. While all the others were to wear their hair swept up in small, tight knots, hers was to hang down, flowing as the wine.
Her mother could remember the times when her hair was full of knots and twigs, from dancing through the brambles and briars that would catch at her, but never catch her. Her hair may flow like wine, but it was the fact that wine had never flowed down her throat which intrigued Dionysus so, prompting him to request tonight’s performance.

So long as that is his only request, she thought. She would not have any of her daughters couple with a son of Zeus!

 

 



SELENE

Selene tentatively raised her arms, the sleeves of her gown falling back, bunching together at her shoulders.

Was this the way to call on Isis, daughter of Earth and Sky?

Standing on the rocky precipice, the wind blowing her hair into her mouth, Selene closed her eyes and felt herself grown lighter, lifted by the wind, held back by the stones, floating between. Her head began to feel heavy, sinking into the ground, swimming through the mountain. She knew that if she opened her eyes now, she would see nothing, and would gasp, inhaling dirt and sand, and she would drown in dryness.

Confident in her actions now, Selene struck her wrists together above her head, palms cupped, ready to catch stardust and moonlight. She was ready: to drink in all the spirit of her namesake, to learn, to fall.

© all text by Kerrie Colantonio McNay & written for Parrish Relics

Indelible: Art, Poems, and Prose in Response to the September 11 Crisis, edited by Kerrie Colantonio

Boston-based poet Kerrie Colantonio has created this 60-page publication to raise money for New York City disaster relief. It features cover art by Brian Froud and contributions by other Endicott Studio folks (Robert Gould, Cory-Ellen Nadel, Terri Windling), as well as by participants in the Fairy Tale Discussion Board hosted by the SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages Web site (Jessica Breitbarth, Gretel Marlene Claggett, M. Pepper Langlinais, Laura Williams McCaffrey, Donna Quattrone, Charlotte Rosenthal, Kavita), among others.

Write to Kerrie Colantonio McNay for ordering information.




© Jennifer Parrish for Parrish Relics. All Rights Reserved