I crept up to him while he slept and studied the twitches his dreams made beneath his frail eyelids. He should have sensed my stare. Soon I knew if he was being chased by wings and needles, or if he was lost in a flailing bark inside the snapping prongs of foreign waves. I took a shine to his beauty and studied his wavy gouts of silent pain, shirred through the pine bark I’d made from my own withered skin. I crept in after filling my son with the riot of the moon and teaching him the languages of spindrift: light, and growth, and change. This little slip of a sprite in the pine knew nothing but delicate abandon, weak-willed hostility, monstrous self- regard, his magic imprecise and wanton. He played havoc with my infant son tormenting for flimsy pleasure with a slippery and ephemeral power. I spied him poisoning a flower, discerned his plans to tease my son to brinks of docility and dread, shrinking him to meager genuflection, the son of Setebos and Sycorax! the leashed hound of a smirking sprite, the least of all the voices on our isle, the bare whim of a noise, a poser, a mothy flirt of minor arrogance. And yet, this ambiguous he in my tree calls me to a dangerous maternal softness, vying with maternal rage. My son must be ascendant but the world, being a stage, requires antagonists and will slip into mazy wanderings that even I cannot control, despite my art, despite my ancient vanity, despite my incandescent age. I exert myself and move the thick-waisted moon out of her wheeling self-possession into a gasp in my child’s nascent seeing. I give this tree-caged spirit my remorse and something of my slyness as I rouse my art and shelter in the ripples of this pitch. I am drained of spells and inclination to command so will only half-bewitch the seas and watch this biddable spirit flit new tricks and bend to a tired and once glorious will when he is tree-unsheathed by a passing stranger with a storm-tossed, vacant child as beloved by him as mine own son by me. My work is nearly done. No idle deviltry, no cruelty, no bloated shows of superior might. Caliban, attuned to light and music I can barely sense will know true freedom by its loss, wield true power through his subjugation and trust the moon drunk phases of his birthright.
Kate Falvey’s work has been published in an eclectic array of journals and anthologies, including the Mysteries issue of Deep Overstock; in a full-length collection, The Language of Little Girls (David Robert Books); and in two chapbooks. She edits the 2 Bridges Review, published through City Tech/CUNY, where she teaches, and is an associate editor for the Bellevue Literary Review.