12:4: “The Changeling’s Escape”, by Ada Hoffmann

12:4: “The Changeling’s Escape”, by Ada Hoffmann
  A child, night-creeping
  far from the whitewashed porch.
  A winding aisle through pillar-trees
  to lie in hallowed darkness
  as the summer creatures hum.
  Something floats in these trees,
  viewless, mind-visible,
  sharp-limbed and laughing,
  not luring.

The child grasps wind-thin hands,
laughing along, not thinking
of a screaming mother miles behind
and the dark of an empty cradle.
She rolls in the crackling leaves
and sings, and says, “home”–

borne away in forest’s arms
to a tree-tangled, night-quiet land
without the piercing flicker-flare of the sun.
Without the smack-handed women calling her “fey”.
She carries the word in her pocket,
not stolen but wild
as she climbs.

Ada Hoffmann is an autistic computer scientist from Canada. Her poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons and Goblin Fruit. You can find her online at ada-hoffmann.livejournal.com or on Twitter at @xasymptote. She says:

As a disabled person, I’ve always been of two minds about the idea of changelings. To a modern reader there’s something very romantic about the idea that there is a good reason you are not like the people around you, that it’s because you are really from another, more magical place.

But historically, folklore about changelings is not romantic or value-neutral. It has served as a way of dehumanizing disabled infants and children and justifying horrific abuses against them, including burning them in fires or household ovens, in order to get one’s “real” child back.

(Some facets of modern medicine do pretty much the same thing now, but without any faeries being involved.)

I’m not sure exactly what this has to do with the poem, except that I wanted to show a changeling child “wandering” and discovering the place where she really belongs. 

Photograph of a tree trunk in the Olympic National Forest is by Erin Hoffman.

3 Responses to “12:4: “The Changeling’s Escape”, by Ada Hoffmann”

  1. Sara Cleto says:

    This is gorgeous and evocative, as your work always is!

  2. Lisa Bradley says:

    A happy changeling story! I am glad she escapes, if only for a while. I particularly admire the use of kennings in this piece.

  3. CG Olsen says:

    This is beautiful! And I really appreciate your commentary on the poem as well. Will share this right away.

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