The Art of Shapeshifting

We wonder how we will ever get through.
We don’t know if we will but we believe. 
We don’t always know what we believe in
but we have faith anyway, maybe in life. 
Maybe in the great carrying on of it all.

The survival instinct that drives
such great feats.
The birth of fire.  The catching of water. 
Harnessing the air, and cultivating earth. 
Building worlds in the wake
of vanishing lands. 

Pulling up life force from the underworld
even though everyone says it’s the land
of the dead.  And maybe it is,
but we understand each other,
the dead and I. 
The homes one can make in a half-life. 

So the dead gave me a special thread
from the Fates, themselves,
to lend me strength to walk
through the trial by fire,
and the judgement by drowning. 

A witch won’t sink if she holds her breath,
but she will surely fall
if you throw enough stones
to find her bones.

Maybe it is they who live in the ground,
silenced so long they forgot how
to utter a sound, 
so they learned a new way to sing:
quiet through the aethers
and in the land of dreams. 

And maybe this is the magic of sleep: 
to gather colors and scenes
from my kin in the soil. 
To paint my pathways forward,
adorned and ordained
by the sacrifices they made.

Maybe I don’t know how to survive,
but I know how make beauty
in my liminal skin,
sinking into twilight and shadows; 
The things that scare the living
into shaking in their shoes
because they are afraid to die. 

Because they believed the lie
that life ever ends,
while I was making friends with ghosts
who know a thing or two about existing
in a different form
from the Spawn of the Sun. 

For this is the art of Shapeshifting:
to adapt and evolve to the nature of a place,
or a state, to a heart, or a soul.  

And when I dissolve to return to the whole,
I’ll leave my blood on the stones thrown
and a vial of ash from the burnings.  

A bowl of water from my lungs from when
I had to breathe instead of float. 
And the dirt from the skin I left behind
when I found my wings again
and took to the sky. 

Copyright © 2021, S. Naify

Art: Shapeshifting by Sherri Bustad.

One thought on “The Art of Shapeshifting

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