Excerpt for Ice In The Firelands by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Ice In The Firelands

Tag Cavello

Copyright 2018 by Tag Cavello

Smashwords Edition

For all of those who died thirsty



A Suitor's Poem

Candle Down The Lane

Fading Flowers

I Want To Kick Fallen Leaves

April Cantata

Leading Lady

Leave Your Heart In Antarctica

Let The Children Grow Old

Help Me Joseph Merrick

Old Ways Die Hard

On Christmas Eve

Once And Never Again

One Night Of A Tempest's Ire

It's One O'clock In The Morning

Plastic Doll


The Wind To Me

Thus I Decree We Stay Home From School

Too Old Anymore

Two Dogs

Tyche If You Please

When I See You

Yesterday's Girl

You Are My Beatrice, Victoria Lynn

Softest Song


I once read a story, very long ago, about a fat, jolly troll who lived with his mother deep in some unknown wood. Each morning the troll would go to a lake to catch fish. The mother would then cook the fish for breakfast. The troll did this again at noon for lunch, and a third time at dusk for dinner. He would also pick berries for pies, and steal vegetables from a farmer’s garden, that farmer being never the none the wiser for his loss, as the troll—whose name was Googy—was always very careful to take only what wouldn’t be missed.

Still, Googy eventually discovered that he was a greedy troll, for one morning he went to the lake and found there were no more fish to catch. He and his mother had eaten them all. Likewise, all of the berries had disappeared, as did the vegetables in that poor farmer’s humble garden. Googy was still fat, but wouldn’t be for long. The forest simply had no more food to provide.

So one day, whilst still with enough energy to walk, he struck out to find the cabin of an old wizard said to live in an even deeper part of the wood. Googy’s journey took many days, and he had many strange adventures, but at last he did come to the cabin, which was really more like a hovel, tilted to one side by numerous gusts of storm winds over a great many years. Its door hinges were rusty, its windows cracked. Inside sat the most ancient man Googy had ever seen. He had a face like crumpled foliage, and eyes like cracked acorns. His beard, long and white, reminded the troll of melting snow. Puffing on a gnarled pipe, the old man bade his guest welcome.

After listening to Googy’s plight, the man confessed to be the wizard for which he sought. He also promised to refill the lake, and the berry bushes, and the garden, for only three small favors.

“A pair of night socks,” the wizard’s crinkled voice spoke, “a new robe, and a sleeping mask.”

Googy was delighted. He knew his mother could easily make those things for his new friend.

“I shall send you home immediately,” the wizard told him, “and when you’re ready to return, simply say: ‘Come hither a road to the wizard’s abode.’”

And in a flash Googy was home again.

He told his dear mother everything that had happened. She readily agreed to sew together everything on her son’s small list of items. When they were completed, Googy recited the wizard’s little poem. An instant later he was back at the hovel. Just as before, the wizard sat inside. He thanked Googy profusely for his enterprise. The robe, cap, and mask all fit perfectly.

“Now go,” the wizard said. “Your lake is full again and will remain so always.”

“And the berries and the veggies?” Googy asked.

“Those you shall have as well.”

At this Googy thanked the old man a million times. Then he left.

Everything went as promised. The lake was full of huge, healthy fish. The berry bushes bloomed fatter and riper than ever. And those vegetables in the farmer’s garden? Delectable. Delightful. Delicious.

A year later Googy returned to the hovel to again thank the old man for his graciousness. He got there using the same incantation as before: Come hither a road to the wizard’s abode. And calling the wizards name, he went inside.

The chair was still in its place, but today it was empty but for a faint ray of sunlight. So Googy went into the next room, which was even smaller than the first. There he found a rickety old bed. On it lay the wizard. Or rather, what remained of him. At some time or other, he had died in his sleep. His face looked peaceful. Serene. As if he were dreaming something lovely. The sleeping mask Googy’s mother had made rested just above his brow. On his body was the robe. On his feet, the socks. It seemed that all the old wizard had wanted for his magic were a few comfortable pieces of clothing in which to lie down, and close his eyes, and die.


I think all poets share this sentiment, at least to some fleeting degree. He or she will sit down and write verses and rhymes about the past, or about love, or loss. Something sad anyway. And as the poem takes shape, there will all the while be this soft, soft voice behind the rigid bars of its gantry, little more than a whisper, which says: I wish I could just die.

I hear it all the time. But then most of the poems you'll find in this collection are about better times that I can no longer live. Missed chances. Lost happiness.

Take this piece, called The Land Of Lost Content, by A.E. Housman:

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

That's basically what I'm trying to say with my work, only I'm not good as Housman was. I am serious though—maybe too serious for a poet. I insist on every line having perfect harmony, perfect rhythm. I'm not saying I achieve it but do I ever insist. That's why if you've already read some of these poems over at my blog, you may find reading them here, the occasional, light change to make them—I hope—better.

But back to death. In recent years I have arrived at the belief that the best years—my best years—are gone. I'm almost fifty years old. I don't think there are going to be any more opportunities to be happy. I've pretty much blown them all. What I really want to do now is climb a snowy mountain, find an old, abandoned crypt, take up residence in one of its niches, listen to the wind blow, and quietly die by candlelight. I would be surrounded by the corpses of other fallen poets. Those who tried but failed. Maybe we could get together for a drink on the other side. Make mine a beer, ice cold.

I have more than one problem with suicide. I'm frightened by what lies beyond. Things are crappy here. Why assume the next realm will be any better? My gut also churns at the idea of reincarnation. Last thing I want is to come back to this wretchedness of existence and suffer it all over again. And finally, there's method. It must be foolproof. No one wants to survive a suicide attempt. Ah well.

Anyway, here are the poems. I tried to write them so they'd rank with the best ever written. I mean if you can't play ball with the pros, why get in the game at all? I'm here to succeed, not goof off on the town sandlot. What you're about to read is good. It damned well better be.

That's all for now. Maybe forever. I've been greenlit for another novel but I haven't decided whether I'll write it or not. What's the point? What's the point of anything? I don't know.

That's all I know for certain—that I just don't know.

Real, cool, loose.

Tag Cavello, December, 2018

A Suitor's Poem

My shadow falls upon the porch,

Of the temple where you lie.

My shadow fades upon the torch,

Of the beauty I draw nigh.

Each night I walk the pediment,

To soothe an aching need.

I long for your disarmament,

I kiss you and I’m freed.

A giant’s bones are not enough

To keep my heart at bay;

A giant’s bones my own rebuff—

My love for you holds sway.

Always will I come for you;

Wait for me and see.

I love you, Sweetest Louisa, true!

My darling, my dear, marry me!

Candle Down The Lane

Candle down the lane,

Where nowadays I rest,

Defy the wind and rain,

For longer I behest.

For this Christmas night I spent,

Unalone since years gone quick,

With a girl who softly bent,

She bent and set your wick.

And by your light came dreams,

And funny little stories,

In which I found my own it seems,

Sad ghosts, devout rectories.

Like many a leaf of the storm,

She fluttered in from the rain,

And like many a leaf thus torn,

She fluttered away again.

And here I am returned,

From walking her to the street,

And I see her flame still burns,

And I wish her dreams be sweet.

Candle burning, burn away slow,

With the heat of a match-girl’s pity,

Burn despite her need to go,

Light other lanes in the city.

Yet when I awoke next day,

Your wick was black and cold,

And I went to the street, just a little way,

And grew just a little more old.

Fading Flowers

Fading flowers down the lane,

Sad where I once stood,

Weep in the rain, the autumn rain,

That blows from the winter wood.

And I pass gray, wearily,

One more petal through the door,

Make love and war, hate and merry,

I try not to care anymore.

Fading flowers down the lane,

The night grows dark and cold;

Flowers, flowers, bloom again,

As once before we grew old.

I Want To Kick Fallen Leaves

I want to walk the empty street,

To frozen limbs, dead trees;

Wearing black upon my feet,

I want to kick fallen leaves.

I want to cross with drunken gait,

To join the peerless peers;

Though darker times must need await,

I cannot tarry here.

For what is the tale of human fuss,

Eating, eating, eating,

Withheld the sweet flame passed to us,

Beating, beating, beating?

What is the tale of humans, thus?

Little is left to care about,

Less is left to do;

I’m not even sure of my whereabouts,

Sharing this poem with you.

I want to walk the empty street,

To frozen limbs, dead trees;

Wearing black upon my feet,

I want to kick fallen leaves.

April Cantata

In an April cantata she went away,

Her love, unchained, let go;

And the leaves behaved as petals of snow,

On the wind, the wind, the sweet rainy wind.

I did nothing but watch that day.

In an April cantata she went away,

Left love I no more understand,

The love as a gift I never could hand,

Cross desk, the desk, the chiseled brown desk.

I did nothing but watch that day.

Sing forth from your garden of gray,

Oh seamstress sing if you will,

A carol or dirge that speaks of some purge.

I did nothing but watch that day,

On the wind, with a gift, 'cross the desk.

We once heard an April cantata,

That kept all our sadness at bay.

We once heard an April cantata,

And in it she went away.

Leading Lady

Leading lady in the dark,

By flint your eyes twin fires,

You hold your breath among the sharks

When plunging my desires.

You hold your breath in small chest bare,

My hand upon your wrist;

You brave with me the deepest lairs,

Far from the breath you miss.

Hold it girl as we go down

To that sunken, flooded tomb.

Hold it ‘til you’re ready to drown,

Til the pretty bubbles plume

From your lungs, dainty, delicate lungs,

In burning, desperate fashion,

Begging forth with cutting tongues,

Away from this mad passion.

Jerk my arm! Point to your breasts

In frantic, terrible need!

So from my own I may fill your chest.

Show greed, girl, greed! Great greed!

Leading lady in the dark,

By flint your eyes twin fires,

You are the arrow upon my mark,

You are the shock on the wire.

For without you I could never be;

Old prows must still cut the sea.

Thank you for coming, leading lady,

On this journey, this journey, with me.

Leave Your Heart In Antarctica

Leave your heart in Antarctica,

Untouched, unblemished, unstained,

Confounding night’s red arrow.

Leave your heart in Antarctica,

To which others cannot find a trail,

To which others cannot go.

For no better proof of love exists,

Than love at rage in solitude,

In a world of ice and snow.

Let The Children Grow Old

Please don't call the toddlers out
To the valley over the ridge.
Don't hail the ones who've just arrived,
Having lost their way to the bridge.

Let them at least grow old enough
To grasp the presence of noon,
Before you withdraw their morning hour,
Before you take them too soon.

Please don't tell the little ones
There's no time for the toys,
The toys that came for Christmas, no,
Let them be girls and boys.

Or if you please then pass unto me,
The reluctance you fail to use,
For this heart I cannot bear let go,
This love I cannot bear lose.

Help Me, Joseph Merrick

I once had a black pearl,

Obtained from nests of thieving,

I once had a pretty girl,

Dark and soft as grieving.

I once had a wander code,

That went no girl, no leaving,

We took a drive down Gore Orphanage Road…

On a windy autumn evening.

I once had a blue diamond,

Passed down from wiser takers,

A gem loved by the sun,

Though forgotten by her makers.

I once had a wander code,

That went no girl, I have to stay,

We took a drive down Gore Orphanage Road…

On a sunny summer day.

Standing by the window,

Is more like using a mirror.

See things I used to know,

Coming in clearer and clearer.

Is this the end of pity?

Has Boreas’ breath come to the wick?

How did things get to be so unpretty?

Help me, Joseph Merrick.

I once had a firebolt,

Red as the black moon on the sea,

Crafted by hands not familiar with rote,

Hands never meant to work for me.

I once had a wander code,

That went no girl, no wanton fling,

We took a drive down Gore Orphanage Road…

In some lost spring.

I guess it didn’t really mean anything.

Standing by the window,

Is more like using a mirror.

See things I used to know,

Coming in clearer and clearer.

It’s never been an absolute certainty,

Hearts upon the moon are going to stick.

How did things get to be so unpretty?

Help me, Joseph Merrick.

Old Ways Die Hard

Let the string unfurl,

From its rustic wooden spool,

And to the sky what colors hurl,

Shall open rigid doors.

And beyond thick mists of gray,

May we lace upon fresh canvas,

Some new perspective on the day,

With looser, longer cords.

But ah! Such stubborn moorings,

Doth loop me to my ways!

As even now uneven floorings,

Tilt from brighter shores.

On Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve

I went downstairs,

To look at the Christmas tree.

On Christmas Eve,

Dressed in thin layers,

I went downstairs to see,

If maybe, perhaps, you were back.

Through every room

I raised my lamp,

Tracking footsteps ghostly.

Through every room

I heard your laugh,

Come prettily, come softly.

It did indeed seem you were back.

And a wintery wind

Rang the brass,

The brass of the doorstep bell.

And a wintery wind

Struck the glass,

And crash! The Christmas tree fell!

Ah yes! Ah yes! You were back!

It’s just too bad

The accident

Took with it your lovely head.

It’s just too bad

The accident

Made me wish that you’d stayed dead.

Once And Never Again

I stood beneath some windy tree,

And watched you plunge into a sea,

Of bridled, uncrafted memory,

Your cavalier laughter toward mystery,

Left behind at the bend.

And I had time to wonder,

What jewels you would plunder,

What lives your heart might tear asunder,

In that way your laughter flitted and blundered,

Whom would you move by their end?

And I waited 'til you disappeared.

Blowing leaves swept from the sky and sheared,

Your ever diminishing shape, unclear.

What lives are you going to touch, my dear,

As the little of mine I did lend?

One Night Of A Tempest's Ire

I rose one night of a tempest's ire,

Wind in the trees, a raging fire,

And took to the streets for my heart's desire,

Certain that tempest was yours.

It led me to a stately queen,

Upon her throne since nineteen-nineteen,

Gables furled as brows gone mean,

I pressed forth to her doors.

The rooms lay quiet as pre-dawn mists,

Or places of lovers' cozy trysts,

Sharing kisses by light unkissed,

But no less self-assured.

And to the basement door I crept,

And at the basement door I wept,

In memory of times we kept,

The happy places where we stepped,

The chambers where we loved and slept,

Loving, loving, ill adept,

Without the wisdom to accept,

Each other's heart, each other's theft.

The basement door came open slow,

Inviting me toward places low,

Places I could never know,

I lit a brazen stick.

Blackness feared its fitful flame,

As a tiger would the chair to tame,

Whilst I descended in my shame,

You lay 'neath your murderer's pick.

And as my foot did touch the earth,

I seemed to hear you in your dearth,

Cry out to me for love's rebirth,

And snuff that murderer's wick.

It's One O'Clock In The Morning

Here it’s one o’clock in the morning,

I write to you with pen imploring,

The room too large for this strange night,

Dark corners far from table light,

Disclose foul imps ashoring.

It’s one o’clock in the morning.

I cannot see with my glasses on,

I cannot see when they fall;

I only see what I think I see,

Looking forth between words to the wall.

A dog-faced boy stands near the stairs,

Who sees me and seems to prick up his ears,

A hirsute boy in unknown ploy,

He sees me and disappears.

And something moves on the bottom step,

Which then moves on to the next;

I reach for my cup, the cup is dry;

With the fact I am further vexed.

The door lock shakes,

With passing by,

Of singing ghosts,

Of searching eyes.

The breath grows tight,

Of a maiden fair,

Head underwater,

She waits for air.

Stomping feet,

On the floor above,

Somebody’s marching,

I’m thinking of.

A basement demon,

Tarnishes gloss,

Its finger smears,

Let go the cross!”

And yet I sit,

With pen imploring;

I sit with pen,

The pen exploring.

A blackbird’s song,

Through window shade,

Tells starlit stories,

With notes dismayed.

The ghosts return,

The maiden screams,

The dog-boy’s ailment,

The dark redeems.

Here it’s one o’clock in the morning.

I fear still let my eyes go touring,

The room too large for this strange night,

With what they return for me to fight,

Like red-eyed goats come boring.

It’s one o’clock in the morning.

Plastic Doll

Plastic doll upon your head,

Topsy-turvy in your dread,

Who cast you unceremoniously,

From fickle mooring’s memory?

Your god, the one created you,

May be the one with vein of blue;

Your god released your soul, it landed,

In a chest of other souls abandoned.

And your sleep is painful there,

As we human beings in like despair,

Alone in some forgotten fuss,

Alone because He quit on us.

But you do not deserve this shelf,

As humanity, which hates itself;

Your purpose lies within the gist,

That comes to rest from Cronus’ twist.

Never upon a heart rely;

Hearts upon storm-fronts will fly,

Anywhere the storm may lead,

Anywhere like flower seeds.

Once more though its blood may burn;

Again for you the winds may turn,

Unlike what I feel for us.

We are alone. We are the dust.


Scorpio came with the gale.

And the trees were in motion with whispers,

Like with Arlen's young deviant sisters,

In that long ago tragic tale.

Scorpio came with the wind.

And dry leaves whirled in the sky,

And fell to the streets by and by,

From once more did they ascend.

Scorpio came with the breeze.

And light, and darkness, and death,

And things that might be in every breath,

In every wish given in threes.

Scorpio came with the rain.

And with it you went down the lane,

That year it came with the wind and the rain,

And I never did see you again.

The Wind To Me

Through an evening moonlit street,

By Libra’s open hands,

We follow from the heat,

We leave the burning sands.

Coming forth from blindness,

By Apollo’s flaming eye,

Happens through a whispered kindness,

When orchards touch the sky.

Garish children giggling fright,

Praise the reign of Scorpio,

Filling bags with sweet delight,

They praise in mass imbroglio.

Coolness in a stifling heat,

Upon the command of Aquilo,

A rush of air gives running feet,

To dreams beyond your window.

Thus I Decree We Stay Home From School

When one in dragons no longer believes,

Those dragons, some say, will turn into leaves,

And take the shape of jaws in the trees,

And die on a cold winter breeze.

And when we are told that fairies are lies,

Those fairies become puffy clouds in the skies,

Made mistier still by relinquishing sighs,

Of little girls waving goodbye.

But maybe we needn’t grow up all the way,

We who have all these stories to say,

For what is the law that grown-ups can’t play,

Sometimes, in passing, on days like today?

Thus I decree we stay home from school,

For the desperate sake of our hearts’ renewal,

Of deeper treasures, more delicate jewels.

Thus I decree we stay home from school.

Too Old Anymore

My belly’s round, my bones are tired,

I’m buying more prunes at the store.

From the job of young man it seems I am fired;

I’m just too old anymore.

I can’t run laps or play basketball,

It’s always too cold or too hot.

On steep stairs I often trip and fall;

In fact it’s more often than not!

I can’t see up close, I can’t see far,

Only what’s strictly between.

People get scared when I drive a car,

Like they did when I was a teen.

But I’m fine with all these; I seldom despair.

No longer for me God keeps score.

The game was over when I lost all my hair.

I’m just too old anymore.

Two Dogs

Two dogs came to call upon me,

From a place I had never known;

They wagged their tails with urgency,

Though not for want of a bone.

I followed them to an old iron bridge,

Overlooking standard gauge rails;

From there they jumped to a rocky ridge,

That winds along wooded trails.

Twas a sunny day with smiling trees,

Their green-gold boughs in bloom;

Nevertheless she could not please,

A chill from her rigid groom.

He stood in form of an icy cave,

Just off the ridge to my right,

Dark and hushed, a cathedral nave,

Wherein the dogs vanished from sight.

The tray of their invitation,

Lay before me, crystalline;

The noonday train had not left its station,

Nor did I have sufficient steam.

There I stood on the shimmering tracks,

My heart gone a little way,

Until I decided it best to turn back,

Or rather less safe to stay.

And later I told myself a lie,

I still do not believe;

I said I did not wish to die,

And with those dogs take leave.

Tyche If You Please

The last of Apollo’s unleashed arrow,

Fades above the trees.

Upon thine fortune intervene,

Tyche if you please.

Time hath flown, a reckless bird,

Undisciplined hills and valleys.

Upon thine fortune may thou lean,

Tyche if you please.

From whence did there come a lesser moment,

For one who knows than sees?

Thou wisdom must thine choosing glean,

Tyche if you please.

Ah goddess let thou guiding hands,

Scout this entreaty on the breeze,

To thou fortunes, clandestine.

Tyche if you please.

When I See You

When I see you at school I cannot read,

Be it Twain or London or Sewell;

My mind rather goes with the gentle lead,

Of my heart when I see you at school.

When I see you at noon I cannot eat,

For these feelings profusely strewn,

I gather resigned become replete,

In my heart when I see you at noon.

Leave me awake; leave me asleep;

For what is a dream without you?

Test letters in red—go bend, go break!

What more can a dreamer do?

When I see you at home I cannot find,

Such meaningful lines for a poem,

May with my love become entwined,

In my heart when I see you at home.

And when I see you at night I am freed,

And by countless stars softness light,

I redress the pain and confess the need,

Of my heart when I see you at night.

Yesterday's Girl

Yesterday’s girl in the smoke of cigars,

Lost in the light of yesterday’s stars,

One upon we wished perhaps,

I want to go back; I want to relapse.

Yesterday’s girl I sometimes still see,

On top of the hill, ‘neath the mango tree,

With tilted head like dainty fawn,

And then the fawn turns, and then she is gone.

Yesterday’s girl with the laughter of those,

Younger than me in ragged clothes,

Capering tireless golden beams,

I love you still, or so it seems.

Yesterday’s girl in the smoke of cigars,

Lost in dreams of what could have been ours,

We part at time’s forbidden bends,

To other means, to different ends.

You Are My Beatrice, Victoria Lynn

As rain on a late April morning sighs,

In the trees of a northern city’s skies,

Cobblestone streets sing with water rushed,

In the predawn dark, in alleys hushed.

Wet flowers perfume outside and in,

You are my Beatrice, Victoria Lynn.

As snow in a far away forest falls,

To the cliff-side where a Kenai wolf calls,

The blizzard wind blows a mournful tune,

'Cross the plains of dreams let go too soon.

White galaxies freeze on a reaching limb,

You are my Beatrice, Victoria Lynn.

As October seizes farmland hills,

Cool beauty bursts into creaking mills,

Vast fields of wheat by clouded moon glow,

Hide and reveal the shrieking scarecrow.

Leaves bright like fire in frantic spin,

You are my Beatrice, Victoria Lynn.

As summer sunlight, a dainty sword,

Cuts gently through your arcing fjord,

The ships I sent to the summer sun,

Shall not in this world complete their run.

The end, I reason, is where we begin.

You are my Beatrice, Victoria Lynn.

Softest Song

Once, when I chose to suspend my belief,

In the soul’s pious glove, that forgiving sheath,

I feared the stars would against me turn,

Light withheld from ruined sojourn,

Until this earth could no longer rest,

From its obligation to the flesh.

And when to the sands did I venture forth,

A voice descended, I felt from the north,

Quietly streaming by blue winds fed,

A purple strand from a purple thread.

Without words the voice I began to feel,

Said only a gentle nurse may heal.

Yet when I followed its pretty tune,

It echoed from the sandy dune,

Before seeming to altogether fade,

Leaving my ailing faith betrayed,

In wilderness weary footsteps thick,

In a realm bereft of candlewick.

Thus I turned from where I had come,

My patience weak, my senses numb,

Only to pick up the voice again,

As it trailed, an inconspicuous wren,

Above these deadly boards of the pawn,

And I followed again, ‘til again it was gone.

At each call are we closer done,

Of the books set down by bearded ones,

Such as the earliest, Genesis,

Or that which follows, Exodus?

And must we listen so intently,

So not to miss what’s whispered gently?

Now I believe and disbelieve;

I play a child’s game with reprieve,

Shifting, shifting, to and fro,

Shifting, for I do not know,

Of which vein I am wiser bled,

Nor what will happen when I’m dead.

Tag Cavello was born in Norwalk, Ohio in 1971.

More of his works include:

Secluded Worlds: 24 Short Poems by Tag Cavello

Double Dutch and Other Stories

Regions Of Passion

Crystal Grader



Other places to find this author include:

Twitter: TagCavello


Instagram: tagcavello

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