With the tail end of twilight, descent by chance

Down into my valley, I notice your steps

You a traveler footsore with your hem in the dust

 Seeking safe rest, in grass dry or lush

At the base of the slope, under the apple tree

You lay down your pack and drop to your knees

And from within my marsh I dart and I drift

In watching you, stranger, with keen interest

The first to pass through in a seeming age

A bell on your belt, and your cloak an array

Of patches and colours that speak of far places

Of roads well-worn and of roads that wait

In the now-darkness, the tongues of your fire

Flash hungrily through the reeds and the briars

And I coalesce as you lay down your gloves

To warm and to eat your journey-fare rough

I need not look upward, I feel and I know

The full summer moon and the stars’ cool glow

Which limn you in silver upon your fire’s dying

As the shadows spread wings on their nightly flying

Now from my haunt, on the breeze I dance

From the reeds to the slope, to an apple tree branch

I rustle the leaves, and the sounds of the night

Swell with my laughter, echo my delight

Your ears stir then – even in sleep

And I drift down, a silk-winged seed

To whisper nothings, to skim over your cheek

To tussle the grass by the tree where you lie

‘Till at my play, traveler, you open your eyes

You rise from your blanket, the cloak of colour

To follow my lure and gift me your wonder

I revel in your haste as you follow my way

Bell tinkling eagerly on the path that I trace

Over the water, through brambles and sinkholes

One hand holding skirts as the other implores

So I beckon for you to fill your grasp

From rock to stump through mists of the past

Winking, hovering, a guide through the maze

Where hours of nighttime blur and soft fade

Where you tire not, but enraptured, rush on

And where I feel with regret the coming of dawn

For you, lone traveler, did not falter or fail

But followed me faithful on all of my trails

To be left under the apple tree with the sunrise

The night a dream-memory fresh in your mind

Yet rouse you will, and begin your journey anew

Shaking your cloak of the fallen dew

 Leather gloves donned, and dirt over ashes

Hoisting your pack you climb to the pass

Yet a pause at its edge reveals your longing—

And I know that you, traveler, may go wandering

You may see cities, mountains and oceans

Wonders of earth and wonders of men

But when the moon is ripe, the world a-hush,

You will recall, your feet will be tugged

To the marsh in the valley, come at my wish

And dance with me the dance of the will-o’-the-wisp


Elizabeth Cook, 2012

36 thoughts on “Will-o’-the-wisp

  1. Well, Lily, what can I say…, I really didn’t like this one…, at all !!!
    I LOVED IT !!!!!!!!! A wonderful, magical litll story so well written that I couldn’t turn away til I’d read the end ! Fantastic!

  2. Marvelously evocative of the night-long dance in the forest. The middle part (from “You rise” to “coming of dawn”) builds lushly on the rest of the piece. Brava!

  3. Enchanting! I could really picture it in my mind, the imagery was so strong!
    Also, I nominated you for the ‘Versatile Blogger Award’: wp.me/p2WgNh-3O. 🙂

  4. I have come back a second time to read this. It is so beautiful and atmospheric.Study hard because you will be using that economics degree in the future to manage your income from your creative writing!

    1. Wow it’s really nice to hear that you wanted to read this again! I’m really flattered 🙂 Haha I’ll study hard, and you know they say most people don’t end up doing what their degree was for


  5. “Lovely” is the only feeling I can think to utter at first./ thank you for this, Lily, your clever word-talent comes like a song this way. Please Keep on.


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