Brenda Mann Hammack is an Associate Professor of English at Fayetteville State University, and a teaching artist for both The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative and The Eckleburg Workshops. She also serves as managing editor of Glint Literary Journal. Her first book, Humbug: A Neo-Victorian Fantasy in Verse, was released in 2013 by Misty Publications. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Menacing Hedge, Mudlark, Gargoyle Magazine, A capella Zoo, Bone Bouquet, and Elsewhere Lit: A Journey of Literature and Art.
Opal Writes to Fairies
The girl spins until sun-
shaft thickens to glass.
Leaf boneless as a green
sleeve, sidelong as a glance.
She’s writing to the forest
with flint on bladed grass.
The birds call ever closer now
than mama’s Where are you?
The man who’s kind to wood-
rats told Opal fairy truths:
Maidenhair is fancied,
lady fern, too.
Plant wishes near
to root-song. Ask favor
of the woods. Be silentstill
and patient for greylight.
Understood? Save chattering
for woodrats. That’s fairy-
land rule: keep Sunday
as a sacred time,
especially after noon
for daytime only hides
the dark when lichens,
Let moths translate
in wing flaps.
And don’t expect an answer.
Still. Even granite moves.
A Defense of Opal Whiteley
Who could blame her for wanting to be a change-child, surrounded as she was by that clutch
of whiskered wood fairies?
Even her name meant playful color; the Roman opalus: seeing other.
Who could blame her for not listening to teacher or to mother when spiderlings rappelled, shade-light, when demoiselles, featherless, winged along streambed?
They only looked sharp. Hatpin evangels do not bite.
Near the old log where Opal left leafnotes, the wild scuttled understory. Long ago, I’d learned to write calligraphic, rune-wise, would demonstrate
as the child—pupils wide—laid bounty onto counter.
Pencils thick as fingers. Green for turnip tongue. Blue for robin’s egg. Red and purple: bromeliad spike. Brown: the many-eyed potatoes.
Lastly, yellow for warble that filled earth and not just sky.
Who could blame a child so different she could understand words in shifting light? Some folk never forgot when others changed names to deny kinship.
Others said Opal’d sooner tell lies when truth was better.
When the family moved to mill town, I remained, tending to nursery, to hospital where skittery
things reminded how she’d nursed
tired wings with bandages, Mentholatum.
As a child, she’d called me the man who was kind to mice. Now, you ask, do I believe? How could I not when star-gleams ripple leaves?
What’s not to believe in stone that shines?