Saturday, September 14, 2013

Song for Two Voices

HER: I am no prophetess,
but I caught a glimpse this morning,
as I kept the dragon at bay -
my mind's eye showed me this:
a knight's dark head
bending over my hand,
laying his lips on my wrist,
where the blood pulses beneath my skin.

There's largely haziness these days:
gray fog in the mornings,
black smoke by night.

I used to dream about a garden,
when I was small,
and that, one day, a knight would be waiting there
(waiting for me),
standing beneath a tree of golden leaves:
sword set aside -
armor put to rest -
his face steeped in illuminated-manuscript splendor;
his shoulders broad with Gothic grandeur.

But a snake entered the garden,
as I slept.
He sang to me in my slumber,
and spoke to me when I woke.
He offered me fruits that
bit at my tongue,
and burned bitterly all the way down,
caustic to the heart's core.

A prince entered the garden
never at all.

None of my companions have been sweet.


HIM: It's been years, now,
since I was sent forth.

I went out in search of
the maiden who battles the dragon
by night,
the warrioress,
for she would be
in need of a helper.

There was neither map nor fare,
but I was given a horse,
and I was given a sword,
and I was given a blessing
for the way.

My lord told me that
sustenance would fall
into humble beggar hands,
and only these.

He told me that
the way would be found
carved into my heart,
or not at all.

There have been times
when it seemed that
the path which beckoned to me
would destroy me, in the end:
such treacherous terrain,
such thick vine-growth,
such hungry thorns.
Firestorms surround me,
ahead and behind.

But this road is all I know.
And you should know, my lady,
that even if I lost my steed,
I would continue on until
my bloody feet had brought me
to your throne.

I gallop across fields of flame for you.
Perhaps you're enduring the dark smoke, too? -
I hear your voice crying from far beyond -

And now your beauty comes thundering through.
You are every promise, come true.

What's this darkness you speak of?
You make the night brighter than day.
See the sunbeams streaming from
your hair,
your fingertips,
your face -

oh, if I could
seize that light,
and swallow it like rich bread,
it would be food enough for all this journey.


HER: I was promised a heart-pounding
good dream of a fairytale,
back in the beginning.
Where are you now?

And what has passed?
Where am I now?

Fast asleep in a tower of gold,
waiting to be wakened with a kiss.
Oh, it's a sweet dream,
such a sweet dream,
just a sweet dream.

My body, once so white and fresh,
is now bruised by this bleak armor,
striped red from the dragon's claws;
my hands scorched by his breath.
My mane used to trail after me,
a train of gold,
but I sheared it off long ago
(a warrioress cannot daydream of
letting down her hair).

Once I was the white-and-gold maiden.
Now I am blackened
and reddened
and burnt all over.

I fear, my prince, that you will find me
different than what you were promised
(for you, too, were made promises).

HIM: No, princess,
for here is the gold,
here is the treasure
(though you may not see it).

I see you,
a small, sweet-nimble soldier,
fluttering by the gates,
a wound in your shoulder -
Your mouth is sad,
your eyes are long,
but your arms are sure
and your heart is strong
and I want nothing else
than this lovely white dove,
this soldiering songbird
singing the daybreak to life.

HER: I sometimes hear you singing,
from very far away.
Will I ever see your face?

HIM: I see yours.
Please, do not turn it away.

HER: Here I am, cast out of my castle again.
I am shivering and alone in the night,
and I am frightened.
This sword weighs heavy on my arms.
When will your hands join mine upon the hilt?
Am I to be a vagabond princess?

HIM: You'll match me, at the very least.
Will you be my vagabond princess?
We might go wandering together.

HER: Then I would be only half-vagabond,
having found not heart's home, no,
but heart-haven, yes;

A cove along the stormy shore
where shorn princesses may rest
and become fresh-water naiads once again -

or we might build together a tower of gold,
here in the dale,
we might weave ourselves a castle of
golden flowers
(so tender and safe)
and I would be new again,
I might turn young, just from
gazing into your face -
face warm and open, like a cup,
from which to drink up all the sweet sun-rays.

But now the smoke all but swallows me up.
Where are you? How long?

HIM: I will find you.
I will see you by the dawn.

BOTH TOGETHER: Oh, the fire, the fire!
I see now how we must go through together,
trusting that the flames will meld us into
forms more noble, forms more able to love.

HER: Sometimes it seems that
the fire will last for ever and ever
and ever and ever and ever and ever
ever -

HIM: I am here now, princess.
My dusty feet have come to stand
before your gates.


HER: Now I see -
and I should have known -
how things spring up where you go;
you carry the garden in your step.
I thought that it was dead.

HIM: Have you forgotten?
Do you remember?
I hope that you never forget
all the living things that in you bloom.

HER: What a night it has been!

HIM: What a day it will be.

HER: Now I see your sweet, sun-burnt face.
The golden tree is in your eyes.

HIM: You are so lovely -
please, let me help you slay the dragon -
you are so lovely.

HER: Good morning, my wandering minstrel.

HIM: Good morning, my lady.


HIM: The fire may last long into the night,
but only Beauty will last for ever.

HER: All of my life,
I have wandered, thirsty, throughout this land,
searching for the cool spring that runs
down the mountainside.
My body has always chafed
against the world.
My heart has always ached
for the company of another pilgrim -
ached for one
with which to ache
for Beauty.

None could understand,
though I wanted someone to -
desperately I did -
and now you do.


HER: Promise me this, my dearest:
that no matter how much I may protest,
you will not let me glance back at you
as we climb out of the shadows.

Do not let me lift the lid of the box,

the pomegranate to my mouth,

or the candle to your face.

If I wake to strange noises in the night,
will with all your might
that I will not fly out
in search of the source,
but rather draw closer to you in our bed,
holding your hands to my ears.

HIM: There's no use pretending:
autumn will follow summer.
The knives will pierce your feet.

HER: And the glass will tear at your eyes.

HIM: So the circle will run complete.
But let us keep on climbing,
let us keep looking up;
I will carry you across this desert,
if you will be my eyes.
Let us always help one another from falling.
Let me carry you in my arms.

HER: Let me guide you.
He keeps us hidden away in the mountains;
he schools us until we are fit
to go out and sing of him -
oh, teach me nightly of the stars:
their shapes and their signs.

HIM: Discourage me from gazing too distractedly
into the constellations of your eyes.

HER: Tonight, my love,
I dream of when
I realized that
you would be my sole companion:

We had been fighting together
against that black snake, and
I had lost far too much blood.

Forgetting to think of yourself,
but knowing only the Home
which is waiting for us,

you pressed your lips to mine;
my veins to yours -
it was a transfusion of wine
and sunshine

and it surely saved my life.

Copyright © 2013 by Olivia Meldrum

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