11:3: “Svartálfar Rising”, by Barry King

11:3: “Svartálfar Rising”, by Barry King


The Faë sealed their mound-caves closed – not a whisper escaped;
Stratum-trace, lost even to shovels, small-shod shoes’ beaten path
The weight of smelting upon them, the metals came ever brighter;
No mellow aura, argentine shimmers. Cold blue steel, the warp
And woof of iron rails cutting lay-lines to their dragon-bones.

That’s when we came, plucking like the moth the golden droplets,
The endless nectar-life from root to fruit to elder age and thorn.
Sunk their eyes in their sockets, rotted them within, seventeen
years cicada sucking the marrow clean, bursting withered husks
Spilling progeny upon the faë, on slender limbs, the high brows.

Some fought bravely, faë fiddlers clinging to their fretwork,
Notes, the glint of light on dew, midnight dance abandonments,
Glories of hunter and hound, and darkened flight over deep Unseelie
All lost now, wedged between machines of men and chittering stone
We made our abode, built nests from fantastic weavings, laid eggs

[It is silent, now, in the waiting-fungal stillness]

Our hand in fate’s glove, mankind will suffer same: metals trumpeted
worthiness, brawny cities lost in refinement’s pure white light
They retreated from machines into machines, gutted and tinned, while
Gazing from faëry-mirrors we wait hungry, watching metal writhe
Living rivulets, root-like, clambering into ears, mouths, hearts

Seeking now to pierce the shade, fleeing fusion into hollow hills,
They crack the gate within the mind, to see the fair folk, reach
Across the paper-thin centuries, the membrane of distrust that sealed
The doom of Oberon and Tam Lin alike. Still we wait. Probing ever,
One day to step into the world, to fuse their flesh with metal gods.

Barry King lived in several countries around the world until settling in his spouse’s home town of Kingston, Ontario and converting to Canadianism. They live there with a small blind dog and an increasingly complex battle with the second law of thermodynamics. His poetry has appeared in ChiZine and StarLine. He says:

It was written after 48 hours of coding with only five hours sleep. Bits of dream started to mix with bits of programming in my head, and I thought of how iron repels some fairies and attracts others, and how quantum-level our technology is. Will we someday punch through some event-horizon and let the dark elves out? If so, where will they break through?

Public domain illustration is from Ängsälvor by Nils Blommér.

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