Netting Scents

Sultana Raza

Netting Scents

   After ‘Portal to Feyland,’
   artwork by Sultana Raza

As the doorway into Faerie yawned,
inviting her to slip inside any of the vortexes
rich with glistening memories pooled

into spheres of comforting thoughts
cushioning her against harsh realities,
she struggled to resist temptation.

Visible only to her half-fey eyes
in the twilight hours, an inchoate net of black
brambles warned her of the folly of falling

for the spells issuing out of elfin lands
trying to coil around unwary mortals,
pulling them into their shadowy realms

so they could feast upon their memories
of the richly warm and golden-rayed sun.

Luckily, her sharp nose caught the layer
of decaying bones, shredded memories

underlying the fragrances of sapphire lilies,
indigo roses, azure hyacinths, just before
she crossed the invisible arc.

But since she resisted, even when
the crystalline singing peaked into
a crescendo of attractive promises,

the choir soon turned into a furious
hissing as she swam away from the clutches
of the ephemeral doorway
      obliged to close rapidly
      with the setting moon.


Of Indian origin, Sultana Raza’s poems/fiction/CNF have appeared in 150+ journals. SFF work in: Entropy, Columbia Journal, Star*line, Bewildering Stories, Focus & Vector (BSFA), Unlikely Stories Mark V, Galaxy (#2 #4, #5, #6, #11, #12, #13), Blaze Vox, Vita Brevis, Antipodean SF, File770, spillwords, and in Penumbric (in future).

Her fiction received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train Review. She’s read her fiction/poems in Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, England, Ireland, the USA, WorldCon 2018, CoNZealand 2019, and at Chicon8.

Her creative non-fiction has appeared in Literary Ladies Guide, Literary Yard, Litro, impspired, Dream Pop Journal etc. An independent scholar, Sultana Raza’s presented papers on Romanticism (Keats) and Fantasy (Tolkien) in international conferences.

As an awarded artist, Sultana has exhibited in-group exhibitions in Europe (ECA in Luxembourg, Italy, Monaco, Finland), and the USA. Her artworks were published in various art publications, including New Collector’s Book in 2013, Contemporary Masters, Royal Monaco. Also, in literary journals including Bewildering Stories (Issues 954 & 1022), Utopia Science Fiction (in Dec. ’23), Amon Hen (Feb 2022, Tolkien Society), Vingilot (Winter 2023, Tolkien Society), and Alchemy Spoon (Dec.2023). Also, in 3Elements Review (2016, 2022, & Cover Art in 2023), and as Cover Art of Focus (BSFA, June 2022 & 2023), and Rigorous (July 2023).

Backstory: Genesis of the poem: While walking in a park in Nancy, France, I came upon some architectural structures, which had a forgotten, or forlorn air about them. As I was taking photos of these decayed, yet elegant walls, I couldn’t help wondering why this portal had been created there, and what if it was a doorway into ‘faerie lands forlorn’ from Keats’s Ode to a Nightingale. I played with these photos to create my art-work, Portal to Feyland. Then I was inspired to write the poem, Netting Scents.

There’re lots of poems of male protagonists straying into elfin lands, and being captivated by beautiful femme fatales of the immoral kind. John Keats’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci comes to mind, which was based on an even older ballad. However, my protagonist turned out to be female herself, who was strong-willed and wary enough to stay away from treacherous territory. Also, I couldn’t help wondering what could have warned her of the inherent dangers of setting foot into Feyland? Fragrances can travel in air, and someone with a strong sixth sense, or intuition would be able to guess the real state of affairs based on the underlying scents wafting from that place. Somewhere, at the back of my mind, I was thinking of how one could access Avalon only at certain times when the portal was open, and only certain females were allowed to go there. Therefore, this poem was a culmination of different myths and concepts.

Editor’s Notes: More about Nancy, France is here:

Image Credit: Portal to Feyland by Sultana Raza

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