Posts Tagged ‘German’

The Sandman’s Children

The Sandman’s Children
            “[W]ho is this naughty Sandman,
            who always drives us away from Papa?”
            “He is a wicked man who comes to children
             when they won’t go to bed…
            He puts their eyes in a bag
            and carries them to the crescent moon
             to feed his own children…”
                        —E.T.A. Hoffmann, The Sandman

The moon is full of eyes,
coated with delicate
dust, a thin crust

of sifted snow.
Our favorite

gifts from Father
and his white canvas sack
that would rupture with a flourish,

a prize!
salty offering!

in each of our beaks.
And while we fed,
he’d retell the story of sight:

the source of illusion,
of desire, of sin
its portals once thought
to emit their own light.

We’d imagine
glowing threads,
spun sugar and fire

stretching from our stomachs,
forming webs some creature

could perceive
with its apertured organs.
A traveling conjecture: our lives,
our dreams, our joy!

But no more. Daddy vanished
in alien water, a stockpile
of soft spheres left behind

in every crater,
keeping track
of our fear.

What powers forged
such wretched objects?

Once sweet, now they’re odium
with blades in their bellies,

burning beads
that never sleep.

 — Melissa Frederick

Melissa Frederick is a writer and freelance medical editor from suburban Philadelphia. Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous publications, including Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, Spectral Realms, Mid-American Review, Mithila Review, Heron Tree and is forthcoming in Oxford Poetry. Her chapbook, She, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008. Follow her on Twitter at @msficklereader.

Editor’s Notes: The associated image by Johanna Öst (
used with permission, “speaks” to German story by E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822). He wrote an inverse depiction in 1816 of the lovable character in a story called Der Sandmann, which showed how sinister such a character could be made. According to the protagonist’s nurse, he threw sand in the eyes of children who wouldn’t sleep, with the result of those eyes falling out and being collected by the Sandman, who then takes the eyes to his iron nest on the Moon, and uses them to feed his children. The protagonist of the story grows to associate this nightmarish creature with the genuinely sinister figure of his father’s associate Coppelius. In Romanian folklore there is a similar character, Mos Ene (Ene the Elder). (Cited from Wikipedia.)