Burnt Ember
2009 by Ellin Anderson


Ellin Anderson

Through fields that will not bloom again,
We went to seek the Devil's Den,
Within gray woods, whose autumn brands
Flickered and clapped like fiery hands.

The ledge beneath the forest holds
Faults in the fabric of the folds
Of earth, and in a rocky dell,
One vault spills out the lure of Hell.

We brought a chisel and an axe
To loosen hanks of mountain flax,
And pyrite, where the veins entwine
Both chrysotile and serpentine.

The clever hungry eye has found
Wine-blush of garnet on the ground
In chromite; and contrived a theft
Of amianthus from the cleft.

Down in the lime-pit, far below,
The lake where Satan likes to row
Is cool in summer. No flame licks
The barley-sugar of the Styx

Set out to tempt the pure and grave
Who find amusement in a cave
And hope to fill a candy-box
With choice confectionery rocks.

All in the eye within the mind:
Search as we might, we could not find
The hell-gate, though the woods were bare
Except for garlands here and there.

My elder brother, Reginald,
Soon strayed ahead. We called, and called.
A plaster girl with painted eyes,
A Little Princess of the Flies,

Sat grinning on the woodland path.
He saw the lie; she knew his wrath.
A fool there was; it was not he;
We left her hanging from a tree.

Young Archer, though of tender age,
Had studied science, and was sage;
And where bright flowers seemed to grow
In shade of clouds that spoke of snow,

He turned away, and passed them by;
They flew up shrieking to the sky.
I did not stop to pluck the sweet
Gold sovereigns scattered at my feet,

And wore stout boots, for safety's sake,
Against the double-headed snake
Who dwells beside the murky tarn,
Spinning asbestos into yarn.

We wandered over hill and glen;
We did not find the Devil's Den,
And so at last, we trampled through
The bracken, where the sky was blue
Above the pasture and the wood;
And there, in flames, the Devil stood.

He held a teacup in his claw,
And sipped, and spoke:  "That wind is raw.
It chills my bones.  Why are you late?
It's half-past four.  I couldn't wait.
You're whiter than a corpse in lime —
Come visit me some other time."

  2006 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved. No part of  this work may be copied or used in any way without written  permission from the author.


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