The Glass Castle: Part I
by Elliott Bell
One turbulent dusk, in the throes of a storm,
Onto the shore tumbled a wet wooden form.
Wild and free and fiercely naïve,
The driftwood girl knew only the sea –
Eternally endless and oft mercurial,
Gentle swells between crests imperial.
Into his kingdom, she rolled out of the sea
Greenweed locks dripping briny blue beads.
Smooth and sweet, her bright wooden face
Showed her joy to find such a place –
For the royal shore was a fantastic sight,
Glinting and gleaming in the soft, stormy light.
There on the shore, she looked about in delight,
Inspecting fanciful shells in the fading light.
Nearby, a shell-made man sat in reflection,
Watching swirling sky with somber attention.
A rogue breeze from the sea stole her light laughter,
And like lightning, his brooding thoughts did capture.
Curiosity stirred, he rose off the ground
And went to find the source of the sound.
Surrounded by shells, her face full of mirth,
She examined a shell of no special worth.
She held up the shell to the approaching stranger
And asked for it’s name, if he might indulge her.
He knew and he told her, and offered yet more
His home was only just down the shore.
A magnificent castle of made of shells and sand –
Much greater than the conch she held in her hand.
He would lead her there, if she might like to see.
Always eager for adventure, she happily agreed.
She could hardly believe her eyes
Confronted by the sheer size
Of the great, giant conch spires,
Tapering spiraled whelk towers,
Scallop-shell gates – it all was so grand! –
Emerging from broad walls of striated sand.
A courteous bow marked their entry
From a courtly crustacean sentry.
Only then did she notice on the shell-man’s brow
Perched shells banded by pearls into a crown.
“Why, you’re a Prince!” she cried
He simply nodded, showing no pride.
Then he offered her shelter for the night.
And as it was dark, she felt it was right
She wished to see more of this castle,
Of this majestic construction and it’s tideland vassals.
Not least was her desire to know more of the Prince,
Of whose polished good graces she was convinced.
He had black pearl eyes that must see more than she,
For they pierced her with unfaltering intensity.
His smooth seashell skin looked so hard and unbending,
And his stance was confident but not condescending.
His fine linen clothes made her feel a mess
In her simple and mended worn kelp dress.
The next day the Prince showed her his home
Answering questions as in his halls they amiably roamed
He explained his father the King was long ago dead,
His mother the Queen long lay ill in her bed.
So he leads his people and rules in her stead –
But his dream was to be a glass-smith instead.
He showed her his workshop, a room of black sand
Where many glass globes hung from silk strands
“They’re so beautiful!” she said
And he humbly lowered his head
As she wandered about, he hid his smile
She admiring his delicate work all the while.
As the sun moved overhead, they went to see
The vast rocky pools full of anemones,
Little crab men going about so busy-busy,
And graceful starfish lounging placidly.
“Please, tell me of the places you’ve seen.”
He suddenly asked, black pearl eyes keen.
And she told him of all she knew of the sea –
The bright coral reefs with their vivid bounty,
The feeling of floating in doldrums, stagnant and warm,
The crashing tumult of monstrous waves in a storm,
Dim distant lands that she spied covered in wrack,
The darkness of depths from which no wood-men came back.
He listened and watched with rapt attention,
Finally sighing with a small lamentation,
“I wish I could see the places you’ve been –
But my place is here, watching over my kin.
But it has lightened my heart, to hear your words –
To know there are those who are as free as the birds.”
His voice was so resigned, her heart broke for him then.
But when he turned and spoke, it healed again.
“I can think of no better salve for this longing reverie,
Than if you would stay and gift me your company?”
Her heart sang at such a question,
And she grasped his hand in affirmation.
To be the companion to one so fine as him
Warmed her heart in a way it had never been.
In her devotion, she was confident.
She never thought of the consequence.
She paid no mind to her gradual transformation,
As the sun bleached her once dark wooden skin.
The prince noticed though, and began to worry.
“You’ve become so pale, must you return to the sea?”
“No, dear Prince, all the drifters that end up abeach
Face the power of the sun’s long reach.”
Fears assuaged, he again held her hand
As they meandered through his halls of sand.
One evening outside a seashell minaret,
They sat together, lit by a red sunset.
The prince pulled from his pocket a shining strand,
And pressed it into her smooth wooden hand.
“I made this for you” he said simply,
As she opened her palm to inspect it gently.
Hanging on a fine silver chain, was a tiny glass sphere
Flawlessly round and crystalline clear,
It weighed more than such a small thing implied,
As a prefect bead of liquid silver shone brightly inside.
It slipped around easily within it’s glass globe
Reflecting the sunset, like a coal it glowed.
“It is called quicksilver, like water it flows.
Like you, it adapts to where ever it goes.”
He took the bauble from her hands, as if to wind it round her neck,
His black pearl eyes burned into her with fiery flecks,
“I hope that you will wear it always, and hope too
That you will accept it as a token of my love for you.”
The driftwood girl was stunned by his open passion
But she had no qualms in accepting his admiration .
She leaned into him and took the necklace,
Hung it round her neck as reply, grinning and reckless.
He pulled her close then, his face to hers
As their hearts beat in time to each others.
Part II to come