Children of the Moon Chapter 1 The River’s Eye

Reflections1Children of the Moon

Mary Clark

The first soul is in the pupil of your eye, the second soul is in your reflection in the water, and the third soul is in your shadow. —Calusa belief

Chapter 1 The River’s Eye

If you see the rim along the river you will also see
a rare and threatened Florida elm slender and straight,
and in its shade, a broken figure hunched in misery

And this Sandy saw, a boy high in a swaying pine
perched on a bough as rough as twine
as he gazed over fawn-spotted prairie, pinewoods
and cypress domes cresting about the Myakka River
coiling its way to the Gulf of Mexico

All around Sandy and this landscape rolled
the timpani of thunder morose and monotonous
as billowing clouds on the horizon flamed with lightning

A deeper heat ignited a spark, empty heat
with a chill at its heart, lightning feet and thunder blood
as Sandy spotted a covey of young men and boys
crossing an open field, a swift arrow aimed
at the heart of the river: and he heard the cry of the hunt

His breath caught in his throat;
he knew where they were headed:
the riverbend, the sugarberry
and the lone elm:
that was where Shadow lived

Sandy swung to lower branches,
lost his grip and landed hard, knees buckling;
jumping to his feet he followed the gang
through sedge and thistle,
focused on a younger boy at the back of the pack

Sandy tackled the boy and they wrestled
in the lanky grass, Sandy shouting:
Will, don’t go. This is how it begins.
But Will shook him off and the brothers
stood at odds in the field

Sandy told his younger brother:
Shadow said it’s his own fault
he ended up this way,
he made the wrong decision, just once.
He’ll tell you his story if we save him.

You mean, fight all of them?
Will raised his fists, but Sandy replied:
I know a place where Shadow can hide.
And then they raced together, apart, together
like twin deer

Over the field a black-haired girl sprinted sure-footed;
Mira leapt a dry creek:
I saw the gang and you —
She batted rampant saw palmetto with a stick,
and a harsh rattling broke the eerie silence

Long drifts of Spanish moss on slash pines
whispered, and tiger-striped dragonflies
balanced on tall sheaves of sun-roasted grass

Away they went, tangled vines snaring their feet
as they startled bobwhite quail in a gentle swale:
birds erupted from swirls of grass, and at the tree
border an old Indian trail’s entrance winked
like the pupil of an eye

A screen of palm fronds, an eyelash lowered above
the path, marked the gateway and one by one
they ventured into the forest’s half-light

A giant golden orb spider swayed before them
on a circular web; bowing, they passed beneath
to follow the hidden trail

Stirring decaying leaves on the narrow ribbon
of cracked palm and snail shells, with reflections
of sun, the three climbed to a shell mound
and there they stood in a merciless glare
surrounded by twisted trees and parched shrubs

The trail snaked down one side into thickets
and soon they saw glimpses of savannah;
windblown seeds drifted over the Myakka,
and the river flowed into their reflection,
taking them in, and offering them up again

Sandy pointed upriver: I saw a boat by the bend there.
He looked below a sugarberry tree among slim stalks
of green-white wandflower: Here it is.

The way appeared before them
leading to the lonely elm;
Mira hazarded a step toward the shade,
one hand down to turn quickly around,
as Sandy and Will edged closer

Unraveling to eclipse the elm’s trunk,
the shade spoke to them:
Dark green to the sky,
a shadow below but evergreen
I need no other to give birth;
my skin is warty, dark brown;
I am often small, but may grow tall
with a single body and rounded crown;
and now my cousins have been overthrown
by a flesh-eating alien, and so unknown
I stand alone

Sandy moved forward: You have to go!
They’re coming after you.
I know, Shadow replied. It’s meant to be.
Will and Mira joined in: No, come with us.
We won’t let them get you.

They staggered back as the form moved toward them:
You see, you are afraid.
Will ducked his head at this; his brother’s passion,
his caring for this unusual creature moved him,
but he was afraid

But you can escape, Sandy pleaded,
All you have to do is come with us in the boat,
and we’ll all help you, and we can row upstream.

They heard machetes slashing vines and trees.
Hurry, Sandy urged Shadow while Mira and Will
walked backwards facing the apparition

Shadow hesitated, head tilted, a tree in a gale
and then took one huge stride to join them;
Will turned and ran in the other direction;
Sandy spun around: Where are you going?
Will called back: I’ll head them off.

In the boat Sandy and Mira grabbed the oars
while Shadow clambered in between them;
a maverick current muscled them to the far side
where Shadow jumped to shore
and disappeared into a host of trees

Will ran at top speed in the sweet bay swamp,
changing direction, leaping small streams;
he whistled as the gang crashed its way
through the bramble, and taunted them:
Can’t catch me, I’m a shadow.

A chill ran down Will’s back as he said this,
and his foot caught on a vine; he fell
face forward into the fermenting mud

Will lurched to his feet and whirled about
just as a blow smacked into his chest;
Take that, a young man spat out,
and the gang began to shout: Who are you?
Where is that freak who hangs out here?

A piercing cry severed sky from earth
and set the grass quivering with overtones
of victory and undertones of despair;
Will and the gang were frozen in fear and awe,
and then they scurried away in every direction

Will slipped away in the confusion, discovering
a path to the river; Mira and Sandy rowed hard
to bring the boat against the wily channel,
turn toward the riverbank to pick him up,
and in a blink of an eye glide into the river’s maze

To read Children of the Moon, Chapter 2: Shadow, click here


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