“The one who guides them over plated gold”
That slip of light on the ceiling
was a beetle burrowing into the basement
where we slept.
When I started writing it was riddles,
images disguised as clues
then posed as questions
I already knew the answers to.
Was it always ordinary things
I wanted to make strange from myself
and meld with music, as in charms?
A creature soared into seas, neckdeep,
dipped in lakes, its legs dripping
with dark mud drawn from below
I send lines to myself at night,
in bed so when woken in morning,
each iMessage is an echo of itself,
words already transcribed in blue
ringing back grey, solitary thoughts
given the shape of conversation.
It was cheating, already knowing the riddle’s key.
Could I afford these walls, Nathan,
if I’d travelled here without you?
Under the earth where insects crawl,
I might be persuaded, left to myself,
to fall into colder arms.
As it hopped onto land it left a long trail,
a series of footsteps seeping into sand,
its black marks marring the white beach.
Old English is an edge of stone
I feel against my bones, a yearning for the glut
of consonants gathered in my gut—
Did that harsh sound always feel like home?
“In the gloom the gold gathers the light against it,”
It felt so familiar—words reverberating
in strange shapes, in thorn and in eth,
þ a voiceless dental fricative.
Does anyone read the Cantos anymore?
These fresh tracks formed curious
structures, figures that shifted in shape.
If I don’t get out of bed
I’ll bleed through these sheets,
a clot of blood falling out of me.
Was it since I couldn’t speak
without stuttering that I wrote instead?
Or was it writing, a turn towards
self that caused my flaw?
Nathan made sure I woke before noon
because he loves me
because I told him to.
As it wandered, the creature crawled and coughed,
plunging back into poisoned seas,
dragging its feet and drinking fervently.
In the Barnes & Noble he
read me a new translation
of the bookworm riddle.
To speak from the diaphragm, not throat.
Is that where words come from?
So sound streams out easily,
not a choke of consonants,
breathless thought drowning on air.
The Exeter book describes a fountain pen too.
Hearing those old words formed new,
my face contorted. I started to cry
beside the shelves of Poetry For Dummies,
the words so guttural,
I felt them in my gut.
When the bird finished blotting the earth’s
surface, it leapt off the loam and left,
its wings extended in a wondrous sight,
feathers guided by a guardian’s hand.
I was the dummy, dumbstruck.
When the house centipedes return,
a scurry of legs crawling up walls,
it will be spring, it will be time to leave
America and return to the colonies.
Who is this creature?
But it was the brutal sound
I wanted in me, not the song.
If I wanted teeth clicking on mine,
something that will last in the cemetery,
objects made of calcium…
Nathan, Naþan, Naþ, þ
Call out its name.
Cassidy McFadzean is a Regina-based writer and the author of Hacker Packer (McClelland & Stewart, 2015). Her work has appeared in magazines across Canada including The Malahat Review, The Walrus, and The Fiddlehead. Cassidy graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2015 and now teaches composition and creative writing at Luther College.