Throwback Thursday: The Word, The Wolf, and the Magic Mirror by Liz Bragdon
Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Editor’s note: The wild, prose-poem imagery of this work grabbed me with its teeming, excited, magical, fevered language and pace. It both exhorts and exalts.
To the language that requires no ears to hear with, no vowels, consonants, diphthongs, declensions, or twisting acrobatics of the teeth and tongue.
Consider the bowed willow and the bottomless well, the rusted gate, the creeping rot in the castle walls, the fork in the road, the broom on the hearth, black crow, drop of blood, wolf, thorn, snake, shooting star, moon and sun.
In daylight we are deaf to portents, blind to treasure. In dreams we dance with them from midnight til dawn, forgetting our shoes and ourselves, bloodying our toes without a care for the doctor’s bill. The kingdom of dreams is a forest glutted with soul’s gold, thick as porridge in a hungry bear’s bowl. Here, all the falls you take never end. Here, every path is winding (in on itself, ouroboros).
Until you wake up with a jerk, a thump, a snap of the blinds rolling up (eyelids) as the bleating alarm rollercoasters through your ear whorls. Tiger tiger burning bright in the forests of the night stares with sad cartoon eyes from the cereal box. Every bottle at the table beckons, "Drink Me,” and every day you reach for the bitterest potion of them all. Wonderland weeps while you dig Mr. Sandman’s crusty gifts from your dry eyes and brush your teeth.
Every day you take the highway most traveled by in the forest-less kingdom to which you banished yourself in search of the prince(ss), the cure, the shiniest object (so many you cannot recall). Here, everyone has a magic mirror; here, we devour all the pretty red apples, every gingerbread treat. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. The Hustle is Real. The magic mirror shows all and comes with an iron-clad pinky swear promise that it does not lie (read the fine print: it sells dreams, my dear, for a very steep price).
In the tower overgrown with sleeping briar roses, the child you once upon a time were wonders when you’ll stop following crumbs and pills and climb out of the oven. Can’t you see all of the bones? Are you blind?
Are we better off awake or asleep? Some say we are asleep—we need to wake up. Be Woke. Woke AF. It’s on t-shirts, in memes. Wake up from the dream! Or if you must dream, Dream Big! Dream Better! Need help? Consult the magic mirror for more great tips!
You have a dream.
You are seated at a dinner table, honored guest. There is no silverware. You panic. Everyone at the table is a stranger, except the janitor from your elementary school. They are hungry, but they cannot eat until you begin. The feast steams impatiently on silver plates. Anxiety squeezes your guts. Do you eat with your hands or ask for a fork and a knife? Or do you run? Your legs are rusted tin, your head withered straw. You dig in your pockets for courage—there is none.
For a moment, the veil lifts. In that magical realm between asleep and awake, choices can be made. Unlock the forbidden door, trade your cow for the magic beans, grab that oil can to your right, next to the roast beef.
The alarm roars. You wake and forget.
You forget the language of the most tender, loving tongue hiding in plain sight, breathing endless buoyant ribbons of wordless tales to tilt the trees, wave the grass, sing the birds, churn the waters, flame the fire, and strike the blossom up through the strip mall parking lot. Pluck it. And with a swish-flourish-slash cut away the strangling briar hedge and set all of the sleepy prisoners free. Huzzah! In this wondrous Imaginarium, this universe-kaleidoscope, this endless rollicking play—you, too, are the wordless words. Can you hear you? Close your eyes, click your heels three times and whisper:
“I am infinite possibility.”
In my house there’s a wolf who lives like a dog, but has not forgotten he’s a wolf. He reminds me with his hunting slink, his howl and growling over a bone. He prowls the kitchen and delights the daycare children down the street. “Wolf!” they shout with glee and point and laugh and waggle their fingers, reaching through the fence to touch his wet black nose and weave small hands into his cool gray fur. They know what they see when they see it. They have ears to hear with, eyes to see with, noses to smell with, and teeth to eat with. No ovens for them. No crumbs and stale candy houses. No magic mirror tricks. They choose the wolf.
As do I. Trip trap typing on my magic mirror I conjure the words from each precious heart thud spiraling rosy life through my 60,000 miles of winding arteries, veins, and capillaries (and back again). Ferocious and tender love for the woods and the path, for the wild wolf and the wild child overflow this electric tangle of space and flesh, blood and bone, constellations and stories. Words, thoughts, firecracker synapses unravel in an endless river of poppies, poppies, poppies red as my hood, red as my blood from the finger I pricked on the endless spinning wheel on this spinning rock in a spinning galaxy of stars—I dream.
Listen. The clock is striking twelve, final as the blow of the huntsman’s axe, transformative as a kiss.
Run. Feel the moss and flowers kiss your bare feet in welcome and relief. Ahead, an ancient hut dances round in circles on wizened chicken legs and throws open the front door. On the hearth, fast asleep, the wolf dreams of grandmothers and rabbits. The skulls on the rusty iron gate douse their light, for the dawn rider is already thundering by. The path is clear before you and the morning here is soft and sacred, touched everywhere by gentle gold.
You are home, dreamer, weaver of stories woven in dreams.
Liz Bragdon is a Movement Educator and Storyteller. In her Louisiana studio, she helps folks create healthier movement stories to live by. Beyond the studio, she reimagines folk and fairy tales, mixes them with creative movement, and shares them with children through her “Tales with a Twist: Stories That Move!” programs.