The Hidden Chamber
Do not fear the ghosts in this house; they
are the least of your worries.
Personally I find the noises they make reassuring,
The creaks and footsteps in the night,
their little tricks of hiding things, or moving them, I find
endearing, not upsettling. It makes the place
feel so much more like home.
Apart from ghosts nothing lives here for long. No cats,
no mice, no flies, no dreams, no bats. Two days ago
I saw a butterfly,
a monarch I believe, which danced from room to room
and perched on walls and waited near to me.
There are no flowers in this empty place,
and, scared the butterfly would starve,
I forced a window wide,
cupped my two hands around her fluttering self,
feeling her wings kiss my palms so gentle,
and put her out, and watched her fly away.
I’ve little patience with the seasons here, but
your arrival eased this winter’s chill.
Please, wander round. Explore it all you wish.
I’ve broken with tradition on some points. If there is
one locked room here, you’ll never know. You’ll not find
in the cellar’s fireplace old bones or
hair. You’ll find no blood.
just tools, a washing machine, a dryer, a
water heater, and a chain of keys.
Nothing that can alarm you. Nothing dark.
I may be grim, perhaps, but only just as grim
as any man who suffered such affairs. Misfortune,
carelessness or pain, what matters is the loss. You’ll see
the heartbreak linger in my eyes, and dream
of making me forget what came before you walked
into the hallway of this house. Bringing a little summer
in your glances, and with your smile.
While you are here, of course, you will hear
the ghosts, always a room away,
and you may wake beside me in the night,
knowing that there’s a space without a door
knowing that there’s a place that’s locked
but isn’t there. Hearing
them scuffle, echo, thump and pound.
If you are wise you’ll run into the night,
fluttering away into the cold
wearing pherhaps the laciest of shifts.
The lane’s hard flints
will cut your feet all bloody as you run,
so, if I wished, I could just follow you,
tasting the blood and oceans of your
tears. I’ll wait instead,
here in my private place, and soon I’ll put
in the window, love, to light your way back home.
The world flutters like insects. I think this
is how I shall remember you,
my head between the white swell of your breast,
listening to the chambers of your heart.
Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before
Say “please” before you open the latch,
walk down the path.
A red metal imp hangs from the
green-painted front door,
as a knocker,
do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.
Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat nothing.
if any creature tells you that it hungers,
If it tells you that it is dirty,
If it cries to you that it hurts,
ease its pain.
From the back garden you will be able to see the wild wood.
The deep well you walk past leads down to Winter’s realm;
there is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
you can walk back, safely;
you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.
Once through the garden you will be in the wood.
The trees are old. Eyes peer from the undergrowth.
Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman.
She may ask for something;
give it to her. She
will point the way to the castle. Inside it
are three princesses.
Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.
In the clearing beyong the castle the
twelve months sit about a fire,
warming their feet, exchanging tales.
They may do favors for you, if you are polite.
You may pick strawberries in December’s frost.
Trust the wolves, but do not tell them
where you are going.
The river can be crossed by the ferry.
The ferryman will take you.
(The answer to his question is this:
If he hands the oar to his passenger, he
will be free to leave the boat.
Only tell him this from a safe distance.)
If the eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.
Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that
witches are often betrayed by their appetites;
dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;
hearts can be well-hidden,
and you betray them with your tongue.
Do not be jealous of your sister:
know that diamonds and roses
are as uncomfortable when they tumble
from one’s lips as toads and frogs:
colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.
Remember your name.
Do not lose hope- what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have
helped to help you in their turn.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
When you come back, return the way you came.
Favors will be returned, debts be repaid.
Do not forget you manners.
Do not look back.
Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall)
Ride the silver fish (you will not drown)
Ride the gray wolf (hold tightly to his fur).
There is a worm at the heart of the tower;
that is why it will not stand.
When you reach the little house, the
place your journey started,
you will recognize it, although it will seem
much smaller than you remember.
Walk up the path, and through the garden
gate you never saw before but once.
And then go home. Or make a home.
Neil Gaiman is such an excellent poet. His short stories are also very interesting, but I feel like they lack substantial conclusions, which drives me insane. He does, however, manage to use to perfect word in every situation, which makes his writing feel very organic.
Also, according to a 9gag post, I am Gomer, The Beautiful Sloth. I just thought you should know.