Through the Green Fuse
Copyright © 1993 by David Reitzes
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
- Dylan Thomas
Once there lived a builder, known throughout the land as the greatest builder there'd ever been. His handiwork lined the town streets, and spread across the countryside like a living creature. Rustic cottages, stately mansions, soaring towers, majestic bridges: all matter was his to command. His real gift, however, was for prisons, and he was honored by the King for his most ingenious creation: A prison without locks, without keys, without even guards.
Now, this builder was in love with a woman, who occupied his thoughts as no one ever had. He was in awe of her beauty, her eyes which seemed to speak to him in a language only the two of them knew. He longed to make her his wife, but whenever he tried to tell her of his love, his tongue would tighten in his mouth, and his words were strangled in fear. And though she counted him among her friends, he grew deeply jealous of the handsome men who came to court her affections.
One longest of nights allowed his frustrations to capture him. He set about building a prison for his beloved, a prison not merely without locks and keys, but so devilishly clever that she would never even know she was his prisoner. He completed the final crowning tower, and shut himself away, as his beloved became a prisoner of the outside world. In an ecstasy of triumph he further outdid himself, building a woman in the image of his beloved. He named her Ophelia. He gazed upon her sculptured beauty, and was joyously reminded of his oblivious captive. And Ophelia loved him, too, as far as she was able.
On occasion the prisoner would come knocking at his door, but he did not answer. "Of course she knocks," he would laugh. "While her brain slumbers, her spirit craves release. She comes calling not for me, but for her own sweet freedom."
Years passed, and the prisoner came knocking less and less, and eventually stopped coming altogether. The kingdom began to forget about the great builder whose structures inevitably succumbed to the tireless erosion of the world. In his tower he walked the grey floors night and day, fretting away fruitless hours on one hopeless scheme or another. Ophelia did her best to comfort him, but his thoughts were always with his prisoner.
One spring day the wind brought the chimes of his beloved's wedding day. Though the news tore at his heart, he sat down at his desk, and drew up a letter of congratulations. He signed it, "An Old Friend," wondering if she even remembered him. As he sealed the letter, a tear fell upon it. He sent it off to her, unaware that his tear had caused the ink to run and spread out on the page, filling it with all the words of love and torment he had only wished to say.
When his beloved received the letter, she was in her bridal gown, amidst islands of spring blossoms, awaiting the start of the ceremony. As she read it, tears welled up in her eyes, and fell upon the ground. On that spot grew a single white flower, which caught the eye of a passing blackbird. The bird swooped down and plucked the flower up, carrying its brilliant prize into the air, until it came to rest on the ledge of the builder's bedroom window.
When the builder saw, he sprang upon the blackbird, and crushed it with trembling hands. The blood-stained flower he placed in a porcelain vase, where it remained long after it had withered and died.
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