Friday, November 12, 2021

Within Glass Mountain

If it’s any good at all,
Every story gets retold
From another point of view.

All the brothers turned to birds
By an angry father’s curse
When they failed to fetch water

For their infant sister, frail
For no known reason, won back
Their humanity again

When that sister rescued them
Once grown up a bit herself,
Old enough to go looking,

Get to the end of the world,
Visit sun and moon and stars,
Get a magic bone, lose it,

And cut off her own pinkie
To use in its place as key
To unlock the glass mountain,

Meet the dwarf, free her brothers,
Happily ever after.
Done. Of course, it’s been retold

In a hundred folk versions,
Print collections, operas,
Stop-motion animation,

Pagan-punk pop songs, and from
The brave sister’s point of view
In a fantasy novel.

But what is it with the dwarf?
What is the dwarf’s backstory?
How’d he become housekeeper

And cook for the raven boys
In what seems like the payback
For Snow White serving the dwarves?

And why were ravens roosting
Inside of a glass mountain
And taking all their meals there?

Once, the mother of the boys
Was overheard by the dwarf
Wishing to have a daughter.

The dwarf did his best to grant
The wish, but the wished-for girl
Was frail and needed magic

From the holy well. The boys
Raced each other to the well,
Slipped and dropped the jug in it

Then didn’t know what to do.
When the boys didn’t come back,
The father, weirdly, wished them

Birds, and the father's wish, too,
The dwarf granted. Only when
He realized the father

Hadn’t really meant the curse,
The dwarf felt ashamed and left
To grow old in glass mountain,

Where he cared for the ravens
He had caused. How glass mountain
Came to be glass, how the sun

And the moon acquired a taste
For human flesh, why the stars
All perched neatly on their chairs,

Or why the girl’s fingerbone
Sacrifice opened the door,
These were not the dwarf’s business.

He served his flying shadows.
When their sister came, he watched
Their transformation, and then

They all left. The dwarf still dwells
Alone within glass mountain
Where there’s no one’s voice but his,

And no danger he might grant
Any tragic wishes, but
That finger’s still in the door.

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