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A Kelpie Sees Mari Lwyd from Afar

By Maria Schrater in Issue Twelve, December 2023

‘Twas the night before Christmas and I froze in my pond
When I heard a wassailing from the town close anon
A dozen stout peasants with drink all aglow
Were knocking on doors in the gentle-fall snow

I spied you in their midst like an ancestor’s ghost
Bedecked with bright garlands, the object of toasts
With clapping of shoulders and patting of backs
They stumbled on further, you leading the pack

My cousin Unseelie, white spirit of winter
Flanks shifting like snowdrifts and mane all a-kilter
Gleaming dark eyes and bared teeth like a gash
Surrounded by victims who welcome the gnash

If I were to tread on the skirts of the town
I’d be driven right out in a trice by that crowd
What magic possess you to soothe peasants’ fear?
And might you impart it, in the spirit of cheer?

I’ve not eaten since autumn, the last summer’s breath
My frogs are all sleeping, the reeds froze to death
The thigh bones are broken and sucked of their marrow
I’ve even broke into the neighboring barrows

Now they’re all rapping the mayor’s front door
To give you a crack at the crème de la poor
This outrageous conduct I’ll no longer stand
I must have a morsel; I’m joining your band!

The mayor’s my dream feast all wrapped up in satin
He swells on serf suffering, on taxes he fattens
I won’t let you have him – or at least, may I share?
You’re new in this county, it’d be too unfair!

My hooves hit the road as he opens the door
Without so much a smile for the caroling corps
“Oh please, wait for me!” I neigh, sliding and slipping
My hooves all iced over I can’t keep from tripping

They all turn aghast as I plow through the fold
To my hide they’d all stick if it weren’t for the cold
“O delicate morsels, I’ll be back for you soon!”
I fall on my rear as you all drop the tune

Heedless of silence and all our distress
Bearing the pudding comes mayor’s mistress
The serving plate shatters, along with her scream
As quick Mari Lwyd lunges inside to feed

Chaos, what rapture! Pandemonium rules
The peasants are fleeing sans torches, the fools
While most gutter out in the arms of the frost
One catches the straw of the good mayor’s croft

I drag out the mayor, my teeth in his sleeve
While you make a heel-turn, flames licking your wreaths
What’s this? Those aren’t hoofprints! You’re clogging away!
You’re no faerie ghost, you’re a mortal at play!

I’m hurt, Fair Folk Faker, you’ve played me a fool
I was planning to share him in my icy pool
Invite you to dinner, then after, a show
We could’ve had something – but we’ll never know!

Well, it hardly matters, I’ve still got my meal
I head for the cattails, ignoring his squeals
And shout towards the town as I splash out of sight
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

© 2023 Maria Schrater

Maria Schrater

Maria Schrater is a writer & poet based in Chicago. Her work can be found in Apparition Lit, Sycorax Journal, Abyss & Apex, and in Air & Nothingness Press’s Wild Hunt and Future Perfect in Past Tense anthologies. She is also Poetry Editor for Apparition Literary Magazine and an associate SFWA member. She especially loves folklore and mythology and often works with retellings. When not writing, she can be found imitating bird calls in the woods. You can find her on Twitter @MariaSchrater or on her website mariaschrater.com.

Poetry by Maria Schrater
  • A Kelpie Sees Mari Lwyd from Afar