The Folklore of Glass

Suzanne J. Willis

The Folklore of Glass

There are worlds blown to life
by human breath, the breath
of little gods.
Tiny globes for a single glass bee
and its sweet sting; others so vast
that cities spring up inside them
under perpetually swirling cherry-tree petals
and breezes whispering
      fables folded on themselves
      in furnaces of longing.

Little gods do not like to think of worlds
beyond their own. Instead, they chase
the white-heat of creation
and secrets
of the old gods
who could never be contained.

So, they blow their human breath
from lungs like bellows, and with it
scraps of life, fulminating invisibly, inside the glass
poison, or balm. Affirmation:

      I was here,
      the glassblowers whisper
      We are here, still
      their worlds reply, fragile in the hands
      of their nowhere gods.

Once upon a time, they made
a glass heart
all delicate valves and
aortic perfection
whispered through its chambers
the secret words
of creation
that broke and swirled like snow, and beat the pulse
of language lost:

      World upon world
      waiting, waiting
      to bloom, expand, wither
      bloom, blossom, fall
      in the dragon-breath of desire
      to leave something
      than memory.

These little gods with universe dreams
buried the glass heart
at the bottom of a lagoon, the green of sea-storms
and quiet envy
washing through the capillaries, that dug
through silt
like radicles searching for light,
an island above—
a secret place for little gods
to make and remake, bloom
and break
imperfect worlds.

Suzanne J. Willis is a Melbourne, Australia-based writer, a graduate of Clarion South, and an Aurealis Awards finalist. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies by Fablecroft Publishing and Egaeus Press, and has a poem forthcoming in Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her debut short story collection was released by Trepidatio Publishing in May 2022.

Backstory: After many years writing short stories and novellas, in 2023 I returned to writing poetry, beginning a suite of fairytale poems using traditional tales and their motifs as a “jumping off” point. This poem is part two of a pair of poems – when writing the first part, I was ruminating on the role that glass plays in so many fairytales. Magic mirror, lost slipper, coffin in the woods. It appears as a bit-player, an accessory, in so many stories, but glass itself is an almost-magic substance, something fine and beautiful created from sand and fire. So, I thought that it deserved a story of its own. 

Editor’s Notes & Image Credit: The city-in-a-glass-globe image (PeatsyPuzzles).

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