Tatterdemalion Mended

Left but vapor, will-the-wisp in air.
Tat­ter­de­malion rem­nants; trans­par­ent, ethe­re­al, hard­ly there.

Gath­’ring in what’s left, a soul misplaced;
A scrap, a shred, a cast-off trace.

So light, insub­stan­tial, in hands cupped safe.
Away from harm in Sav­ior’s grace.

So gen­tle must the gath­er be; Crush not to dust, the frag­ments frail.
Care­ful. Find each tiny piece.  Over­look but one and fail.

Nur­ture spark in tin­der bed, fuel for growth now being fed.
Gen­tly blow, give life by breath. Fan the flame that coun­ters death.

Place back with­in the hol­low shell. Seam the tear. Mend it well.
Mas­sage full well ’till felt to beat. Restored now soul and heart complete.

My heart may not remain bro­ken with God’s heal­ing touch.

It’s worth men­tion­ing that until I looked it up, my only def­i­n­i­tion of Tat­ter­de­malion was the one I picked up from nov­el­ist Ter­ry Brooks’ fan­ta­sy nov­el, “A Knight of the Word.”

She turned and found her­self star­ing right at the tat­ter­de­malion. She had seen only a hand­ful in her life, and then just for a few sec­onds each time, but she knew this one for what it was right away. It stood less than a dozen yards away, slight and ephemer­al in the pale autumn light. Diaphanous cloth­ing and silky hair trailed from its body and limbs in wispy strands, as if on the verge of being car­ried off by the wind. The tat­ter­de­malion’s fea­tures were child­like and haunt­ed. This one was a girl. Her eyes were depth­less in dark-ringed sock­ets and her rose­bud mouth pinched against her sunken face. Her skin was the col­or and tex­ture of parch­ment. She might have been a run­away who had not eat­en in days and was still ter­ri­fied of what she had left behind. She had that look. But tat­ter­de­malions were noth­ing of the sort. They weren’t real­ly chil­dren at all, let alone run­aways. They weren’t even human.”

She moved to with­in six feet of Nest. Nest had­n’t seen her do that, pre­oc­cu­pied with her thoughts of Ross. The tat­ter­de­malion was close enough that Nest could see the shad­owy things that moved inside her semi-trans­par­ent form like scraps of stray paper stirred by the wind. Pick had told her that tat­ter­de­malions were made up most­ly of dead chil­dren’s mem­o­ries and dreams, and that they were born ful­ly grown and did not age after­ward but lived only a short time. All of them took on the aspects of the chil­dren who had formed them, becom­ing some­thing of the chil­dren them­selves while nev­er achiev­ing real sub­stance. Mag­ic shaped and bound them for the time they exist­ed, and when the mag­ic could no longer hold them togeth­er, the chil­dren’s mem­o­ries and dreams sim­ply scat­tered into the wind and the tat­ter­de­malion was gone.”


1. a per­son in tat­tered cloth­ing; a shab­by person.


2. ragged; unkempt or dilapidated.

Ori­gin: 1600-10; first writ­ten tat­ter-de-mallian and rhymed with Ital­ian; see tatter1 ; ‑de-mallian

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Ran­dom House Dic­tio­nary, © Ran­dom House, Inc. 2011.

Word Ori­gin & History


ragged child, per­son dressed in old clothes,” 1608, prob­a­bly from tat­ter, with fan­tas­tic sec­ond ele­ment, but per­haps also sug­gest­ed by Tar­tar, with a con­tem­po­rary sense of “vagabond, gypsy.”

Online Ety­mol­o­gy Dic­tio­nary, © 2010 Dou­glas Harper
Fri­day, July 1, 2011 at 5:38am

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