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In the Valley of the Shadow

The "you" in the poem is my sister, Marsh.


“Remember the sick wolf, the one I touched with the shillelagh?

It didn’t just vanish; it traveled here.” You sweep the blackthorn stick

in a counter-clockwise circle, and we step out of the void and into a dark valley.

It’s nighttime, and the mountains are silhouetted against a backdrop of stars.

They’re pulsing with a scintillating vitality as they grow larger: heavenly

bonfires.

It’s dark, but there’s a lot of activity. Redcaps are dying their hats in the blood

of their victims and there is a metallic charge in the air.

Blink. One scuttles over to where I’m standing, grabs my hand,

and spears it with a pikestaff. It thwacks and nails my hand

to the stump of an oak tree so old that the rings never stop spiraling.

Blood gushes from my hand, and it is as if the stump

is covered in a red tablecloth.

I’m raving, but you remain calm.

“Here, Boy,” you call.

I feel the feathery brush of fur on my right calf.

I look down. When I look up, it’s daylight.

The wolf licks my hand, and it is freed, healed.

A bracelet of mistletoe wreaths my wrist.

I stroke the wolf’s warm-white pelt.

Shimmering spirals of gold and amethyst crown its head.

Its tongue hangs down as it pants shyly.

We’re friends, but I can’t take it with me.

We three gaze at the white-capped mountains just across the valley.

You smile, look up, and catch a single snowflake on the tip of your tongue.

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