A MULTIMEDIA DOCUMENTARY PROJECT ON THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION: THE LAST GENERATION TO REMEMBER A TIME WITHOUT THE INTERNET.
The Welsh goddess Ceridwen gave birth to a son who was hideously ugly. She brewed him a potion to make him so wise that no one would mind his looks and hired a young man, Gwion Bach, to tend the cauldron. When the potion boiled down to the last three drops, they were so hot that they leapt out of the pot and scalded Gwion Bach’s thumb. He sucked his thumb to ease the burn and ingested the potion meant for the goddess’ son. In her fury, she tried to kill him.
Ceridwen’s hand closes fast
around the boy’s throat:
a mangled scream,
and fur squirms through her fist:
he becomes a hare and bounds
for the heather and tall ferns,
but she knows this game;
she becomes a greyhound
and catches his neck’s purse
of loose fur in her teeth, then feathers
fly from her mouth: he’s a wren
almost lost in oaks before
her howl roughens to a squawk,
narrow shoulders pin back
and splay to wings:
she becomes a rising hawk.
Flesh turns to the singleness
of pursuit, her body becomes
her intent. He’s panic-torquing
under her, dropping and spinning,
then her talons garrote the bird
and she clutches his throat.
The wren shivers smaller and smaller,
turns to a kernel of wheat and drops to earth.
The wheat falls into a heap of winnowed grain.
Dismantled beams, shaggy with dust, rot
in the dim shed. The hawk’s feathers darken
the air and her claws spread out like roots
on the earthen floor. She changes to a black hen
and mouths the kernel,
tastes the man unbroken on her tongue,
then swallows him whole.
She’s woman again.
In her belly’s dark
she feels the grain
She wants to drown
the child in her womb,
but the grain-man has found
what lets the gods go on.
Turning to myth
lets anything survive.
The story lives:
a man changing
from hare to bird
to seed to child.
He’s become a bard,
he’ll whittle a rattle
from turtle bones;
his harp will turn
her hold to song.
And he’ll tell how she tried to kill him,
spin stories of her evil in every court
he visits while men grow drunk on mead,
but he’ll remember a hawk’s torso
keeling the air, the feel of living
inside a grain of wheat, the smell of husks,
and he’ll know, in the small hours,
as he wraps his harp in otter furs,
that his power is the same as hers.
Author's Note: “The Hunt” recounts a myth about the birth of Taliesin, a historical figure who lived in the sixth century and was considered the greatest Welsh bard.
***Katherine Robinson grew up in Maryland, near Washington, DC. She graduated from Amherst College in 2008 with a BA in English. She is currently an MFA student at Johns Hopkins University, studying with Mary Jo Salter. Between degrees she worked at a wildlife sanctuary in the Shetland Islands and at the Folger Theater in Washington, DC.