I was rifling through a stack of my work inch-thick in dust the other day, when I came upon a series of short stories I once wrote as an attempt to put a narrative behind the lovely images of certain poems, like The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I was trying to capture the feel of the poem in more of a story form. A local producer for public radio took each of these works and recreated them on air with actors and music and sound-effects. It was called "Aspen Stage on the Air." It was twenty-odd years ago, and the producer has long since shuffled off his mortal coil,
I was younger at the time and not yet a published writer. In fact, reading through the pieces, I am struck by my energy and unabashed enthusiasm, unworn by the uphill trudge that the writing life has proven to be since.
One of these pieces, the lengthiest, wove a story around Dylan Thomas's poem, "Fern Hill;" the shortest of the collection, taken from WB Yeats' "Song of Wandering Aengus," was my attempt to redo it from a woman's perspective. I am going to reprint it here, because it shows me in my first flush, with an ardency that has probably and regrettably become jaded over the years.
WANDERING(Based on Yeats' s "Song of Wandering Aengus")
I went out to the hazelwood because a fire was in my head. Because sleep could not claim me, I ran like the wild night, dark like the deepest pit of me, ran because behind me the open windows snarled at me, the sleeping house tore at me, the man, the child, wailed for me.
I went out to the hazelwood because there was no hope for me except where leaves awoke to me, the sap ran down and danced to me. And so I ran through the shades of garden, the cut grass, the swing immobile as a frozen smile, to the moss-thick wall and the black earth seething with wheat and life. I ran till the smell of walls bled back and the wind drove its hands through my hair.
The crickets awoke in droves, the stars bellowed and moaned in my dress, and I lowed like the cows tongue-tangled, greened and foamed in the deep-sea grass, ran with the scream of feet, numb as a clod, till the house retreated to a stop.
As the spinning sky lifted off and the sides of the world came down, I stopped by a steam where Rowans grew and the berries sang in the breeze. The moon was laughing, its head tilted back, laughing till it made me smile, for the folly of life crammed in moats and walls, for the death of the dance in the stall.
I broke a wand from a hazel bush, crushed berries in my hand, and talked to the fish till the sun went down, and Undine, the nymph, drew me in by the hand. Her song was cool as rivulets, her breath ice on my brow, her fingers warm on my loveliness cut deep in the marrow bone.
Laughter danced on her tilted head, like the tilted moon at my head.
She said, "Tie a sting to the hazel wand, then fix a berry to a thread."
I dropped my line in the singing steam, hoping for a fish, but a man climbed out, Aengus by name, water the cloth on his skin.
White moths flickered by his face while moth-like stars blinked out, and I a waif in a nightdress fell like a leaf to the ground. Only the moon, the unclouded moon, stayed out to watch the play of lips that warmed from kiss to kiss, of heaving blood and flesh on flesh. He smelled of blossom and deep dank earth, he smiled as he lapped my breast, for the milk of the child ran into his mouth, and my heart played drums in my dress.
Among the hazel trees we ran, and kissed and touched and fell and ran, all milky run and failing breath, and the drum and the drum and the drum.
The morning rose easily like a touch of paint on the hill, and I did not see, as he blazed in the dawn,that only his shadow now ran with me. By the time the sun poured soft on the land, only his voice could I hear. Sweet Aengus vanished in the brightening air, and the morning full of wings.
Though I am old now, a brick for a heart, skin weathered and curled, I wander still through hill and vale and turn my back on the world. My eyes turned in, I do not see the hazel wood turned brown; with stick and berry I wait by the stream for Undine to come around. I wait, though the world may cough its last, I wait for the sound of the moon, for I will find where he is gone, and he will reach again for my hand.
And there on the bank in my old crone's cloak, my breast will run with the man. And we will walk in dappled grass, though I am old like a stump, and pluck till time and times are done the silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun.