Performance at the Baltimore Composers Forum concert by Joseph Regan, tenor, and Tim McReynolds, piano. Piano score by Elizabeth Skola Davis. Lyrics by Mary McMyne (originally appearing in the Los Angeles Review).
“The huntsman was just passing the house and thought: How the old woman is snoring! You better stop in and have a look.”
—from “Rotkäppchen” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1812)
Inside, the shadows shape a riddle, a story. The half-burnt candle in the kitchen, the unwashed dishes. The cloth-covered basket by the door. From the hook on the wall, neatly hung, the red ripple of fabric. The crackling fire. The light flickering in the hall. In the bedroom someone is sleeping. At the foot of the bed, two well-worn slippers. On the side table, one book. One pair of spectacles. Night fills the room like cradlesong.
There it is again, that strange buzzing sound. There it is again, from the bed. Such a little old woman could not make this noise. When the log falls into the fire, and the light hits the shape under the blankets, when the log falls into the fire, and you see the claw dragging the floor, you have already begun to rush at the bed with your scissors, you have already resolved to slit the beast open, the word hero stinging your tongue –
In the story you tell your friends, you’ll say you took home the wolf skin as a trophy. You’ll say the old woman thanked you, and the girl went on about how frightened she was. But the truth is the girl spoke only three words that day: Who are you? The truth is the grandmother only whispered, white with shock, as she drank the wine: We were dead. It was dark when you left the grandmother’s house, and cold. When you tried on the wolf skin, the stars laughed. Dead leaves crackled under your feet like fire.
A short film, written and produced collaboratively with Lloyd Eddy (visual artist) and Joshua Legg (choreographer and dancer) for the multimedia concert, movement/text/image, at Lake Superior State University. Text written and read by Mary McMyne.
Fragments from the Alchemist’s Handbook
You’ll need the stone that burns. A pinch
of quicksilver. A map of the heart, of all
its parts. With thought, with will, combined.
With eyes squeezed shut, call memories
saturnine. Project what once was shadow,
the shapes of once upon a time—
You’ll need the stars. The stars. The faint,
wild echo of first explosions. The source
of energy and light. The spark. The fire.
Stand back. Stand back. Do not get caught up.
O body of flesh. O flesh made of water. Do not
become smoke, become dust. Do not die—
You’ll need a mask. Try clay or ash
or wood. Small worms make rivers. The work
of human hands. Your blood. Your sweat. Your time.
And then. And then. Watch will become wish.
Watch wish become spirit. Watch spirit become
thing. The impulse, awakened from your mind—