Never look directly at above-ground folk—
they carry light with them, light that burns
the eye and sears the soul. Never wander
too close to their deep, clattering machines
and their shouting mystics. They dangle
little boxes of magic as bait, and drag our kin
screaming into the aching glow of day.
Beware the rat swarms, hungry and sharp-edged
as a knife stolen from an unwatched bag.
they teach us the dangers of a unified will
unfettered by heart-debt, a lesson learned
in bloodied tooth and whipping tail. Respect
the rat, carrier of disease and wisdom,
as you respect the ancients of our own people.
watch how they move, patterns of fear
and reckless need, and make their dance your own.
Follow scent where no light reaches, dark passages
carved out of the world’s bones, redolent
of sewage and old cooking oil, bodies living
and dead, fungi and crumbling basements.
Scurry into the deepest shadows, listen for whispers
falling through storm drain and grating
like the chant of a wizard calling down dark fire
on the homes of the unwary.
Our shamans and wise women, dressed in soft
layers, wizened and unwelcoming, eye each child
in turn and tell them some unwanted truth.
The sun seeks to burn us—best to prepare early, harden
skin and soul, contemplate all threats bright
and beautiful, ruby gems falling from the wound
in the earth where we have hidden ourselves.
Shy and nocturnal, Jennifer Crow has rarely been photographed in the wild. It’s rumored that she lives near a waterfall in western New York. You can find her poetry on several websites and in various print magazines including Asimov’s Science Fiction, Uncanny Magazine, Liminality and Kaleidotrope. She’s always happy to connect with readers on her Facebook author page or on twitter (@writerjencrow).
photo by Clarence Ominus (via unsplash)