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Poem: "It Comes First and Follows After" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "It Comes First and Follows After"

This poem is from the September 18, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from siliconshaman.  The title is a line from a riddle in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  It belongs to the Monster House series, which you can explore further on the Serial Poetry page.

Warning: This poem has a very creepy mood, and is heavier than usual for this series, more horror than surburban fantasy.  If you're unsettled by the dark and the cold, you might want to skip it.


It Comes First and Follows After


One winter the power went out
on the longest night of the year.
No streetlights, no heat,
no moon for the blanket of clouds
and the thickly falling snow.
It was not white outside, but black.

We hauled out the kerosene heater
and huddled around it, wrapped in quilts,
except for the radiator dragon who huddled inside  it.
Even the monsters under-the-bed and in-the-closet
shivered in their fur coats.

Something was out there,
something that hid itself in the silence
between the moaning wind and the slithering snow.

Indoors, there were monsters,
but they were familiar, even family.
The little old lady ghost had been human once.
Outdoors, there was something nameless and ancient,
something older than language and the first science of fire,
which was before land or water or even stars,
a raging tameless thing of winter night
and hunger and killing cold.

The bogeyman and the lurking shadow
looked at each other over our heads.
"Yes," said the lurking shadow, "I will go out,"
as if they had come to the end of a long conversation.

He was gone for endless, frigid minutes
and when he returned, he moved stiffly,
shedding a fall of snowflakes that
lay on the floor and took a long time to melt.
"This block will be passed by," he said.

We clung to each other, feeling like cavemen,
feeling as if a sabertooth had stalked past
the mouth of our cave and moved on.

"What was that?"
I whispered.

The lurking shadow replied,
"That was my mother."

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18 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: rhodielady_47 Date: September 20th, 2012 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now that's a poem which will leave you thoughtful. You did a wonderful job on building the mood throughout it--very consistant--and that's hard to do.
Good Job!
:)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 20th, 2012 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Now that's a poem which will leave you thoughtful. <<

That's the idea.

>> You did a wonderful job on building the mood throughout it--very consistant--and that's hard to do. <<

I like mood poems, though I don't write a lot of them. They require careful construction, because the effect works better when shown than when told. I tend to base mine on little concrete details and word choice.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: September 21st, 2012 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

"I tend to base mine on little concrete details and word choice."
And it works beautifully.
Most people still have trouble with the concept of "It ain't what you say, it's how you say it," so they are clueless as to why a poem like this works.
:)

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 05:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Yes, mood pieces require subtlety. kajones_writing is doing a call for prompts and the autumn theme really led me in that direction. She handles introspection well too.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: September 21st, 2012 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

You definitely have the knack for it.
:D
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: September 20th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
<shiver>

Just as well she didn't want to come in and meet her child's friends. But that would be far too human for ... whatever that was.

Note to self: ask for more lurking shadow backstory sometime.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 20th, 2012 09:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> <<

Heh ... yeah.

>> Just as well she didn't want to come in and meet her child's friends. But that would be far too human for ... whatever that was. <<

Precisely. This monster isn't a personality the way the others are. She is something more primal, more awareness than identity, if that makes sense. She's hard to describe.

Shadows are mothered by darkness and fathered by light.

>> Note to self: ask for more lurking shadow backstory sometime. <<

Sure, go for it.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: September 20th, 2012 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah. Perhaps even further than I'd thought from the human sense of mother, then.

I'm not sure I'd want to meet light, either.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 20th, 2012 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

>>Ah. Perhaps even further than I'd thought from the human sense of mother, then.<<

She is where the shadow-spirits come from, and they know this, and they can communicate with her to a certain degree. The main difference is that she isn't reproducing herself, but creating something related with its own kind of awareness.

>>I'm not sure I'd want to meet light, either.<<

Yeah, he's probably on a similar plane. That which burns and blinds. You look at the two of them and it becomes really clear why balance is essential for survival.
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: September 20th, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Suggesting we live in shadows, in the melty mushy muddy border between fire and frost.

Edited at 2012-09-20 10:44 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 12:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

It's called the Goldilocks Zone.
zianuray From: zianuray Date: September 21st, 2012 02:59 am (UTC) (Link)
*sleeping with a nightlight tonight*
That's ... shuddery. Wow!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 03:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> *sleeping with a nightlight tonight* <<

That's really flattering. Hee!

ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: September 21st, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
*brrr* I can really feel the goosebumps rising on my arms.

The imagery reminds me of the shadow of death passing over ancient Egypt in the bible, and the houses that were spared.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> *brrr* I can really feel the goosebumps rising on my arms. <<

Yay! This has turned out to be one of the more high-impact poems from the batch.

>> The imagery reminds me of the shadow of death passing over ancient Egypt in the bible, and the houses that were spared. <<

I was thinking of that, a bit.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: April 6th, 2013 03:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Yaah!

I saw this link under "Ghost of a Chance". Pause, look at infinity. "Ends life, kills laughter." The kind of riddle you expect from Gollum.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 6th, 2013 03:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Precisely. Poor Gollum, he got eaten alive by the Ring. But he did know some excellent if creepy riddles. I couldn't resist quoting one for the title of this poem, it just fit so well.
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: October 6th, 2014 07:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Sooooo creeeeeeeepppyyyy.... I love it!!!
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