There was one thought that kept Thumbelina from dying: Magic exists. Only the moment you notice it, the moment you think—”this is magic”—it’s gone. Thumbelina stepped over the third tractor engine along the path, its gray machinery grown through with ladies lace, her great-great-grandmother, Lily’s, diary clutched to her chest. In the journal, there were a bunch of incomprehensible phrases, which Thumbelina had formed into a spell. The spell would invoke a fairy world. The words had to be recited at 3 p.m. on the full Buck Moon.
Today the hills were too green, the birch trees too white for bailing hay. The wind in July in Ovid, Michigan, was alive. So was she. Too alive. Every rock stabbed the bottom of her bare feet as she felt a flutter in her belly: her child with Death.
Hermits, she knew, where like monks who lived in the forest. They made themselves tree-stump altars and slept under the stars. If this spell didn’t work, Thumbelina would build herself a small hut made of river stones. She’d give birth to a feral child. She’d name it Basilica or Prince. She’d train dogs to attack anyone that got within a mile of her, and in this circle of glorious protection, she’d only wear lingerie and ribbons, and maybe she’d kidnap the quarterback of the football team and keep him in her basement. But who knew how to dig a basement?
Thumbelina knelt down in the summer flowers and whispered:
“There are nine flames in the iris of
red orange gold purple fox moon
one roots a phoenix one roots a fool
four root agates three root sister-blue
tree eye is a crown sea eye is salt
sky eye is sun & suns are woven
O my beaten eye-sister her shut
mouth is wired her heart busy with ravens
& their stone eggs she pulled her hair out
now the bald spot is a glacier snow
melts in her retinas her liver
hums with night while her feet are slowly
burning I keep my secret sisters
in a box with my love child’s still-
born streaked lunar riot though silver
branches hello maple hemlock hell-
o sun open your fire-eye open
your crux light-dead mother’s body bell”
Lights broke through the treetops, singing orbs of white, violet, blue, pink, green, yellow, and orange. The lights grew brighter, brighter, until she covered her eyes with her hands and took shelter behind a fallen pine. She heard what seemed like mutant angels, industrial seraphim, cherubs with chainsaws, notes so high and low they set her heart to an alien rhythm.
The rocks, too, cried out for the flesh they lost millions of years ago, while the sky cried out for pterodactyls. The frogs wept beneath the riverbank; their tears mixed into the mud. The birds wished they were dinosaurs, the kings of the earth, and the mosquitoes cried out for someone to change the water into blood.
One, two, three orbs came into focus, each one perching on the log next to Thumbelina’s face. She saw tiny figures, almost human except for the massive wings that seemed to lift into the heavens behind each of them. The first of these figures was a person of no more than six inches with blue skin and long white hair. The light around them shrank into their eyes, which were as purple as the glowing orb had been.
Suddenly, a large creature stumbled through the bushes, arriving naked onto the path. Her skin shone like a child’s. As the creature unfurled, it flipped its hair back and smiled. Its eyes were wild and florescent green. Its hair was long and tangled. The creature looked exactly like Thumbelina. A changeling! She understood what she had to do and gave the changeling her clothes and the journal. “Study hard, loser,” she turned back to the orbs.
“We are called the Good People,” the little orb said. And the fairies took her with them into the Land of the Dead.
The Two Thumbelinas
Changeling-Thumbelina married Faun in a forest with rain clouds overhead. It was epic. Afterward, Faun asked Thumbelina to eat some mushrooms and go for a walk through the mountains. They crammed as many as Golden Teachers as possible into a peanut butter sandwich and read a passage from The Faery Queen for luck.
The violet started in the sky as a chorus of heavenly voices. Sound was color. Color was sound. The sound ran through the leaves on the ground, and as it passed, it colored everything with purple filigree. The river beat a dactylic rhythm into their hearts.
Changeling-Thumbelina became afraid. She clung to a tree, then a rock, then Faun, who was interviewing a boulder. The door to the Land of the Dead opened like a storm cloud in front of her. She saw a figure in the open door, and as it stepped closer, she recognized it: Human-Thumbelina.
Human-Thumbelina looked like a teenage girl with long brown hair and flawless skin, except she had the wings of a monarch tattooed over her eyes. She said, “I’m bored, bitch. Let’s merge,” and stepped onto a giant mushroom, glowing with ethereal power. She reached out her hand and grasped Changeling-Thumbelina’s hair, hugging the older woman to her chest as hard as she could. The two Thumbelinas slowly became one, as the air buzzed with red and purple and blue beside the river, under the giant oak trees. Faun held a magnifying glass up to her face, and she told him what had happened. “Let’s write a song,” he said, and they did:
Beneath the leaves by the riverbank a monarch iris winks.
Beneath the leaves by the riverbank a monarch iris winks.
One red berry shines at the waters edge.
O it’s poison. O it’s poison. O my Technicolor lips.
In the highest of the heavens they toss aside our husks.
You walk there in the morning. You fly there at dusk.
At the mouth of the river, currents pull our legs.
In the mouth of the river, our skins melt away.
The gate to the underworld lies at the river’s edge.
O I died there. O I died there. The river was my wrist.
Brandi George is the author of Gog (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) and the play in verse, Faun (Plays Inverse, 2019). Her poems have recently appeared in American Poetry Review, Fence, and Orion. She teaches writing in Fort Myers, Florida.