This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
2010) Around the dark oak table Five old men sat Hale and leaning forward, tall frames Fanned by long hair peppered grey and black Streaming out and picking up the blazing fire now and again, Sitting with layered beards that spoke of ageless and granite time Yet wiry and slippery with the flowing mist, Their coal eyes fierce with laughter and pricking With secret knowledge, only some bought fairly. In the corner of the room a lone musician plays a frayed violin, Sedate meanderings on strings of cat-gut, He is half-lidded with a deep and cowled hood To keep seeing eyes hidden, Pale lamps of dull white Blinking in the shadowed wood corner And keeping knowing smiles to his own heart In a forgotten corner Of a tavern older than forgotten time. The men at the round table wave their hands in playful disgust At one another, at a bravely spoken story that surely can’t Be true. “Nonsense, Jehovah!” One of the men spits, shakes his head And grabs a tankard of golden ale, foaming just over the lip. “That is a story beyond even your telling!” Four of the men laugh, Shoulders shaking with the jokes spilling from mouths And causing ale to slip over the tankard edge. Weavers of prophecy and fabulists Bringers of the change from day sun to night star Movers of the events of dusty days long Given to oblivions firm and bony grasp, Of stories told best in front of the long-embered fires In taverns lost and found in night of winter storm. Welcomed by travelers cold who thaw with ale And open ears and drawstring bags to all who live By the road outside, and the hearth inside. Yet all Accompany the cheer by careful glances at just-met friends And careful inspection of dark corners where firelight doesn’t reach. The man who has just told his telling has sat straight and still
And watched his companions from slitted burning eyes. From face to face he watched and heard all. And now he stands tall and leans in, imposing his will, Callused knuckles rapping on the solid table in front of him. Once, twice, thrice for attention which he commands. “It’s the truth, and I don’t care what you feel. I know what I’m here for!” Outside the wind blows the winter cold Into the nooks and crannies of the tavern frame And great grey wolves hunt under the cold air of stars Noses above the white carpet of covering snow. The leader raises his head, and sounds the rallying cry. Into the night, the door of the tavern opens. Into the night, the light of the tavern spills. Into the night, a patron of the tavern is sent. He holds his head high, and goes into the wind. He holds his pride high, clutching his cloak nigh. On the hill, above the road, lupine ears become alert triangles Receiving the sure signals that the game is now afoot Below on the ribbon that carries all prey to the grey. On yet another hill, a shepherd raises from his shelter, Pulling his cloak tight, and grasping his staff. His eyes and ears are alert to the change In the air of stillness Now disturbed All around. On that snowy road, a darker ribbon winding through trees Cloaked with snow on laden bough The hooded figure slips away, melted Into shadow, forest And blackened path. In conspiracy’s shadow The figure flees, sure-footed and fleet-minded To meet a destined soul in whispered meeting Beneath the owls Seers of all Silent on their wing and tonight Silent on the branch with their watching. Though they will not involve themselves To change the fate of wolf or man or god, The fate of mice are lost to all
A nest of white bones The cold home of souls breached. One turns its head. Yellow eyes in night Catching the game. On the wind the scent is raised, Sordid things from hell did rise. And one of these, a horned-god, was loosed on the trail Set upon the traveler that lonely frigid night. Giving chase, the sounds of pursuit And harried breath Swept under the falling snow And silenced. The figures leapt in mad-dash through the forest Crashing dark green needled limbs And golden stripped rods of knee-high weed left Behind and trampled in the snow, snorts Issued and bellows raged and breath huffed To challenge and match….. A snort at the table…a listener’s smile. A shake Of a wizened head. And all pauses. “’Tis True, old friend.” Jehovah stops the telling, Raising his head Cocking a look at one across the table. “Every word. True. Sure as we made night turn into day. Sure as we made void into rock.” The teller shook his head then, eyes closed. A tremor At the lip. A tremor In the muscle of the arm Leaning on the table. Then he continued, softly. Surely. The horned-god was clad In rich brown furs and dark-stained leathers Arms bare except for a brown leather thong Tied tightly and to effect On each muscled forearm, tattoed with death symbols And hunting charms, Counts of past conquests. Each and all Steeled for explosion.
The horned head cocks in deadly silence And yellow eyes flare Twin bright fires in the closed-about night. The scent of battle musk and sweat and fear Intoxicating the trail Intoxicating the challenge. The night flowers close up under star-sharp sight and fear. High on the narcotic flowering that carries still on the whiffs of air And wafts of Shifting warrior,…shifting tension…shifting air Readying For death, for dying was ahead and embracing this sliver of time This patch of space This moment of fate facing two beings, death Stopping time with the intent of ending. For walking death the figure had in its grasp, The flowering And deflowering, the passing of life. But then, from death’s still night A rattling of iron chains The tolling of hope and warning On the moor of night’s fear. The cloaked figure on the path strikes out first, Fiercely, Like lightning in the winter night, his Beard loosing from his cloak in the wild wind of winter As he chains the horned-god. Claiming him. With iron cold on winter’s lost tale. Accomplished, the cloaked and bearded man Falls to his knees, sucking in air. “That, old friend, is how it happened. From this very spot. My own self. I -I– did it!” Jehovah sat down and took a long draft of ale Then exhales a breath, long and scented With the satisfaction of a point well-made. The truth told. “Why do you tell us this story, Jo?” Another of the men long in years, long in grey hair and beard And long in smiles. An old friend. His eyes light with the fire of a thousand suns
Warming the souls of all gathered At this table and beyond. Jehovah nodded, Closing his eyes and seeming to run his tongue Along his teeth Inside his mouth. Then a deepness rumbles, and 1,000 women wail In the distance. A tear, at the edge Of his moist and bleary eye At the edge, No beyond, The other’s long sight. But they knew it was there, and stiffened. Slightly, an arm pulling in here, A back straightening there, An eye glancing across the table under wooly brows. Jehovah opened his eyes and looked from one To the next. “Because, that group of people! That group – nearly the whole LOT of them They forget. FORGET! They have no memory, my old friends. They just forget. Forget what I did in making the night safe For children in their cribs, For lovers in their ecstasies, for Sleepers in their softest dreams And travelers on their hardest journeys.. I just want them to remember. And include me.” He pauses, then, looking up, asking, “Is that wrong?” He waits but knows No answer Is coming from the silence of friends who know not where This is going. Again, a nervous shifting. “I am tired. Tired of sitting on a rock by myself. Tired and old And alone. So very alone, now.”
Outside the tavern a great black bird Alights on a branch hidden in the folds of midnight, A flurry of inky wings and feathers closing As narrow clawed feet grasp a branch, Slightly cutting bark, and in one movement Eyes blinking open in nictating rhythms, It turns its head Just so And licks dark lips that should not be there. In a mad dream, perhaps, but not outside That dream. Not here. Not on that face And not…. Not on that body. In the far-way calling of night to night A single war drum beats. It’s pulse and calls out in native cadence To scattered spirits Rising from the ground as one Who turn ghostly pale faces Eyes swimming in the wind and Turning to the sound Of a single tear drying. It is the old friend, inside the tavern, Who waves away the intruding spell. “Friend.” He pauses for effect. Looks at each one. “Ahhhh, all of us we want, as heroes, to break bread and die gloriously To fanfare in song To imagined love, To be remembered in ceremonies at the turning Of lives. Not the more usual forgetting Of the secret deeds Of yesteryear.” The old man took a deep breath. Nods and lifts his eyebrows to allow his coal eyes to look Up. To see his friend and his words Sink in. Jehovah nods his agreement: “The secret deeds of yesteryear are lonely For old lions like us In the winter of our lives.
It is true.” All around the old oak table are raised the wooden tankards A toast to truth among old friends Come together in the dark Against the cold acquittal of their worlds. Outside, coal eyes closed against the winter wind The raven in the tree Looks up To watch the sky In blind ambition. In the lane leading to the tavern A lone figure struggles Materializing as he walks in the blowing snow and In the windblown ashes Of long-ago light Clad against the cold In forlorn hope Of warmth and hearth. And then the figure looks up To see the tavern’s warm light spilling out Hidden cracks, Spotted now ahead like a beacon to the dead. In the fuzzy seeing Through the flying non-white of driven snow. The traveler enters the tavern, He eyes the men at the table Who have not given him the time Of night When he entered. And so He mutters so that any can hear “Why must we wait until we die To get the answers to our questions? Why do you think your race is grand When you sit here, aliens to your own worlds?” Jehovah looks up. He shakes his head and rolls his eyes A movement subtle but able to be seen by his friends. “Please, at least take your coat off, child. Go to the fire and warm yourself, Then you can make your accusations in better spirits.
Perhaps your chattering bones won’t get in the way Of your chattering complaint.” He waves his hand at the man, to go to the fire. The other men chuckle Or make a face, And look at each other under woolly brows, Eyes at the corners To left and right. One of the other old men shakes his head. “Always the same. Their first trip here and suddenly they remember What you DIDN’T do!” “AND they are so meek in remembering!” More chuckles, Silent fraternity In what they are used to getting. Shakes of wiry hair and beard. Manes of winter Shaking to a beat of suppressed laughter. “BARKEEP!” a yell From Jehovah over his shoulder. An old man appears on two feet, Wearing glasses, With a tray balanced on one pink paw. “What is it, my Lords?” A prim and proper accent Sounds across the table. Jehovah waves with the back of his hand At the man shedding a coat by the door The barrier to the outside wind And otherworldly care. “Give him a warm cider, please. And for goodness sakes, get him over to the fire.” “Yes, m’Lord.” A short time later, by the fire, the man curls around a large mug Steaming with vapor Sweet and spiced. The bespectacled old man listens as the new man speaks on
Vacant eyes not seeing. “She had a magic to her, My wonderful love, free with her care Free with her smiles. She had a magic that stirred the heart, that stirred The imagination. I laughed whenever she waved at me Across the dirt road in town. It was that sort of thing. I never imagined the deep love I would have And never imagined That would have driven me to save her life From the demon Attacking her. When you are young some always think they will be that brave. But me, I never knew. The moment It could freeze me. But it didn’t! It didn’t! The demon and I died, in each other’s death embrace But she lives, untouched. Safe. My love lives With my child.” A pause…a look up….a whisper through closed eyes but the head Tilts Toward the table. “No thanks to them.” “Indeed, Sir. That is why you are here.” The barkeep takes a towel And wipes his face. Then he refolds the towel and lays it gently On his shoulder. “I will be back to check on you, Sir. In a moment, if you please.” Back at the oak table, the men have leaned back Leathered hands behind Tethered hair. “Jehovah, we all go through this. It is The Way. You know that. We are taught it in school!” “Achhhh!” A sneered lip And exhaled breath.
Jehovah rises slowly from the table. He waves a hand and shrugs, And grabbing his staff, Walking off, shoulders trying to stay high, to stay Strong. Walking away. By the fire, the traveler’s eyes follow With sudden and realized regret The movement in the room Away from him. His chance is gone, but not the chance He came for. The old man shuffling now, a small Hesitation, his choice made He opens a door at the back of the tavern And passes through, Making sure the door follows. There is, for the careful listener, A click, and a muffled “What’s it all come to, after all these years?” For even the careful listener, after this, there is no more To be heard. They will not hear as He walks the secret halls with head Held high, with legs Unbowed, with beard Smoothed down. The only sound a click…click….click Of wooden staff petrified On stone passage worn smooth. The halls are ancient gray rock, worn where fingers Touched blindly and numbly to find the way In darkest night Or linger On fondest memory. The hall, smooth stone from deepest earth Still cold from its interrupted grave Punctuated by heavy oak doors Barred with iron black From smoky forges older than man. These doors are now all shut, The rooms long ago having served their purpose, their occupants Gone. Mostly. Except one or two. But then even the remnants of those lost years Not remembered by the people, they
Are eventually shut away. Perhaps if one memory Unlatched one door Perhaps if one faun but rose From dusty sleep, perhaps then Something would be different. The sleepers, however, once laid down Stay deep asleep. What remains, however, is one door, Left open all these years Waiting For the final day. Tonight’s day. Through this door the old man walks, a slight tremble As he considers perhaps one last weighing Of this and that. Then He eyes the stone slab, a rectangular white pedestal Kept clean despite all else. Shadows play on it, from a light above. On the wall, the man makes sure that light, a torch Guttering in grief, Is secure and has fuel. Then, With a shrugging smile, a relieved sigh, a crack of knee joint, The man sets his staff against the slab, tilted But resting secure. Both hands are placed on the stone and lower the body. So that the one they called Jehovah in the other room Lies down. And smoothing his robes one last time A smile at the motion, the irony, He shuts his eyes. The air does not move in this room now. The light casts only the shadows of the once happy. The hallway to the room is longer now Than ever before, but the one torch Its vigil begun Marks the way as a beacon, And takes the burden of waiting From the shoulders of the old man. Silence settles like quiet mice stilled when the cat enters. Beyond the first door, beyond first principles, The other men suddenly look up, Searching the eyes of each and as one, they shake their heads.
In silence they raise their tankards, and drain them To match that which was drained moments ago, Or was it really drained slowly, over the many, and counted, years? The man who was last in and is now by the fire In sudden realization watches the table, And eyes widening, looks to the door. Rising stiffly, he strides to the door And discovers the handle opens To his touch. He looks back at the room, at the watching eyes Which nod encouragement. With that he is through With one motion the door shuts behind him With a muffled click. Before him stretches the same hall that the old man saw, Dark and cold save a guttering torch Leaving black smudges on the wall, Still and silent save for his own breath Leaving gray clouds in the air. The hall is closed and directionless save for one door at the end. Towards this fate – what he sense as his fate – He now steps. The intervening steps in the journey are important Though we sometimes cannot disting One from another in the slap, Slap, slap slap of sole on rock. With accepted fate pulling, The now steady progress is made Until reaching the threshold of the room The cool smooth cut stone opening Framing his body and mind Directing his eyes to the pallet of stone And bone and what once-was. What is now is the memories, the meant-to’s, The unfulfilled promises and oaths he The watcher Brings for all and For himself. He has become something new. Not the Bringer and the Watcher steps forward And bows his head. Then he kneels
And grabs a piece of the robe Sheltering what remains Within. “I am sorry, my Lord.” With his tears He wipes a smear on the old man’s still cheek. A reverse baptism To make a new life In death. Rising now, the man grabs the staff And turns Eyes and mouth set to resolute time, As he has done countless times, Though this is the last. He swears under his breath as He steps to the threshold And spreading his legs wide Holds the staff with pride in front of him Hiding his fear Guarding the way Bringing forward the spirit. A door opens, finally, with Budging difficulty and rusty hinges And puffs of dust. A faun appears and opens his eyes wide Seeing the man with the staff, haloed by the torch Behind and within. “Do you know what you do? Will you stand guard for three days And then go forth With his staff?” The man in the door only nods. To which the faun nods And laughs, muttering, “So it must continue.” The man with the staff smiles then, seeing in his mind What redeems him. Seeing in his mind now, the purpose and the mantle He has assumed. How he has arisen. The clarity of heroes flowering Moves mountains.
And back on the rock under the sun, There is a small stone hut with yellow thatched roof In a muddy field next to a clear cool stream Blue and clear and happily babbling. Next to the stream a girl looks over at a plant And screams in giggling glee Interrupting her own babbling. “Mommy! Come look!!! The flowers! They’ve returned!” Then, louder. “MOM! LOOK!” At the window of the hut A woman young with sun in her face Smiles And remembers Wishing she was not alone to enjoy her daughters delight. She gives a silent prayer to her god, Hugging herself in the warmth of the summer day. “MOM! Come look?!?! NOW!”
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.