It's summer number twenty-one
and I am trying not to set the sheets on fire.
The two mirrors wait each morning in
patience, quietly demanding
disappointments and downward glances
My silences are douses of kerosene
over our heads, an acrid second baptism,
and now I wonder
at how one word can light me up
faster than the neon amber end of a shared blunt wrapped in January’s stark blues, but
I breathed all eighty-six of our transcontinental sighs
those words went to rot in the first week of June,
turned brown and sour inside
the red hamburger meat of my wrists.
This is slick truth seeping out through
the perfect Golden Ratio of my fingertips,
these small, nautilus spiral prints
that still trace the spot on my neck
you once traced.
How can I attempt to justify, as
the grandfather death-clock frowns in the corner
and the soft ticking of your beaten down
quarter-hearted protests resound in the dark?
I curled myself away
in little inches each night
wanting to paint your eyes a myriad of blues
as they wet the nape of my neck,
while I smoldered and sank, my eyes
crackling bloodshot for no one,
rose polish peeling and sizzling into the dark
as I braced myself for the
blaze of the match striking with a
hissing rasp until it caught and
I let it drop.
Our bones crackle to ash.
Anyone could read in them
the nights and songs not easily forgotten.
I think I fell in love with him long before I even knew I did. I think I had fallen in love with him between trying to figure out if I had already or not. When he cried the day he thought I was going to smoke a blunt with a couple of kids older than me, and the day he told his best friend: "I think I'm falling in love with her." Up until right now, lying on my bed with my head rested on my crossed arms, listening to the sounds of his breaths lull him into deeper states of sleep; dreaming dreams you and I can attempt to imagine, but only a beautiful human being like him has the privilege to see for himself.
Sometimes when we're on the phone for a while, and I know he's tired because I can hear the rasp in his voice return just like the night before, when he was at the verge of sleep, I don't say anything. I just let him. I just let the silence fill the void between the crease of his struggling eyes, and I remain silent. I let his eyes close. Because I like when he falls asleep. It's comforting, and peaceful, and less lonely hearing his little intakes of breaths every so often.
Sometimes I don't want to hang up, because I know I'll be lonely again once the sleepy silence between our call has ended. I usually draw it out for an hour or so before I force myself to hang up, but never before confessing my love to him every night, quietly, as honestly as I can. Of course he can't hear me, but I always hope that maybe somewhere in his unconscious mind, my words are able to reach him. Maybe in his dreams. Or maybe they never do, seeing as though, occasionally, I remind him in the morning of what I said to him, and he smiles, and pleads for me to never stop.
And that's what makes it worth it. That's why I say words he may never hear. Because somewhere along the line, heard or unheard, my subtle words are still able to put a smile on his face. And I think that's all any of us strive for, is to smile, and to find love, and for love to find us. Whether or not we even know it ourselves.
I still haven't hung up.
I don't think I will.
THAT girl that sits at the back of the class,
You know the one.
THE Freak who never speaks,
But always has the answer.
THAT Freak who doodles prostitutes in HER math book
THE one who's music you can hear for miles
THAT crazy chic with rasp of a smoker
And eyes that'll break you to bits
THAT sketch who somehow has high grades
THE one who snorts Ritalin in the bathroom
And stays awake in the night
SHE'LL kill you with words before weapons
THE insane one with piercings down her spine;
Has HER masters in Mind over Matter
As the scars on HER arms will attest
SHE can't feel anything.
That word SHE hears,
SHE doesn't ever reject it.
proudly buxom mounds released from the confines of propriety
Your hand grabs hold of the invitation with a rasp
Making my nipples stand up to please you
The groan deep in your throat reminds me of my own
sending me eagerly down to your thighs
Your passive resistance grows with your hardened stance
There's no escaping the inevitable
I have stained you as mine as you have penned your exploding
Desire on my lips and your lips deeper into my open snare
The next time she sees you,
you will have me
written all over your face.
I am Daisy Buchanan and
you are Nick Caraway and
you will watch me be reckless and
you will love me and
you will hate me and
I will pretend not to know because
I am a duststorm,
the kind that leaves you winded and
stripped of all your senses,
with no gusto in your lungs and
no more pulse.
I am the current you try to sail against.
I beat on.
I am Daisy Buchanan and
you are Jay Gatsby.
I am the green light that flashes in
your eyes and crawls around your mouth and
you will try to swallow me,
grasp me in your belly, but
I will not make you full.
I will not sit well in your stomach.
I do not taste like love.
People write songs about girls like me, and
you will try to spin me into an
arrangement 27 pages thick, but
my throat is too rasp from screaming in my sleep
to sing to you, and
when you wrap your fingers in between mine and
try to squeeze the pulp out,
it will not cure the white noise
in your head.
You cannot drink me like water and
expect me to soothe your dry mouth.
I am the vodka and the gin
in the icebox,
I will freeze you up and fog your insides and
turn your liver sour.
You try to sip me in moderation, but
you will never understand the way I work, or
how I make your head spin.
I am Daisy Buchanan and
you are Tom, and
I leak green at the thought
of you giving me up, but
we both know you won't.
I am just soft enough to keep you warm, and
just rough enough to tantalize you, but
I am Daisy, and
I get the things I crave and
wreck the things I need.
I am the yellow
that flashes before you
hear the sickening crunch of broken
glass, before you
smell the metallic mess of automobile and
I am the yellow flash
you can't get out of your head, but
like all things,
I am just a moment.
A moment of color like gold, but
A beacon of color like sickness, but
A taste that begs for more, but
still is so bitter.
A duststorm that
lasts on day.
I am Daisy Buchanan and
you are all others.
You are everything in my path, and
all that I can do is apologize for
what I am about to do.
From the depths of me,
I rage on
with a whisper of apology in your ears.
I wish I could stop, but
wouldn't want to even
if I could.
Every night, I lay awake wondering if
I'd get to hear the rasp in your voice again.
I would lie there yearning for you;
hoping that you'd somehow call with concern in
Your voice about how my day has been.
We'd laugh til dawn peeked past both of our
Windows; sometimes it seemed as though time
Just flew by. I'd think to myself, questioning how we could
Understand each other so well even though we haven't
Even seen each other face-to-face.
And as his voice melted in my ear, I realized that his words
Complimented mine like purple compliments yellow, combining
Both of our thoughts to create the most beautiful painting of "Starry Night"
You have ever seen. His tongue seemed sugar-coated with the perfect
Balance of charm and intelligence. I wonder …if that rugged voice
ever gets lonely in that one-bed apartment.
I imagine it does.
i'll write a poem to your name
the way it slips succinctly across my tongue
hangs from the roof of my mouth
a gallows for angels
the smooth rasp that made me believe
you were really so much older
and wiser than i
when i know now that was never the case
your panicked pupils when i wouldn't let you have a drag
you didn't need my protection
you didn't need me at all
but my slow, deliberate words
meek yet reassuring
you needed a woman
but i was still a girl, and you
clearly just a boy
under that ruse of pimp talk
and the way you held my name in your hand
innocence permeated the darkness surrounding your
and i watched and listened as you cornered yourself
and took it all out on the one who never deserved your bitterness
late night phone calls made me feel adequate again
even if i thought my words were trivial, weightless
i've forsaken you and i'm goddamn sorry
but you never knew i pined for you
like a fucking child
Whisper silent screaming cries
Deep and hollow sunken eyes
Weakened pleas and quiet groans
Pale skin on brittle bones
He wheezes when he walks
And he wheezes when he talks
His muscles give and grind and creak
His strength is gone and he is weak
His hair is falling, growing thin
His smile gone a sorry grin
But deep inside, burning bright
His soul on fire lights the night
Once a man who made things move
One last thing that he must prove
Beside him sits his tearful wife
The only thing he loved in life
Before the reaper takes his share
He'll let her know how much he cares
His lungs expand in one last gasp
And in a voice horse and rasp
He said the most important thing
As true as when he gave the ring
The three words he never said enough
But meant more than the other stuff
I love you...
I'd like to see your body arched towards the half cresent moon,
In a soccer feild,
In the middle of June.
I'd like to run my fingers to your dimples and across your back,
Your kisses feel so tender and throughly paced, and take me to that inevitable place,
The way you touch me fills up with grace,
with a dash of euphoria,
Your body is my imporia.
With a sprinkle of exotic, erotic my blood boiling oncotic!
Oh dear! Oh darling!
That sweet little tune in your voice,
As you moan and whisper sweet nothings.
You tease and strip, bluffing.
I touch you softly as goosebumps occure, down your spine they begin to endure,
Oh dear! Sweet queer,
Whisper words of sin in my ear,
That's what I wanna hear as it follows a rasp "I love you"
And my hands on your hips I begin to shove,
Straddled, saddled you begin to rub.
Then get up and proceed to the tub,
Wet. Wild. Bedroom eyes.
In eras weird with old mythology,
As if asleep the fabled country lay:
Her wave-like hills and faerie forests dense,
Her thorny brambles budding curling claws,
And ivy circling all the woodsey way --
The far swan's cry came soft and woke them not.
Forlorn, that selfsame call upon the gates
Did break; those gates of Britain's long-lost keep.
She too slept fast, the weary weathered stones
Of fairest Caerleon. O pulsing stream,
Thou vein of life in woods a-slumber, Usk!
Alone are you in knowing castle's face,
From years of timeless burbling at her feet.
What tales are told by water over stone?
What lark or wren can sing of sadness come?
Aye, answers are the beach-wet sand, yet hark!
Rejoicings spilled, proud hails, from Caerleon:
They cheered the hoar-frost's melting with the Spring;
The holy Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllau
Had come at last, in foliage of dawn.
Within, their goblets sailed, wassailed, and crashed
Like growling Jove, their boasts and toasts like wine --
They drank it spiced and over-strong. Indeed,
Some stretched exaggerations: 'twas Sir Bors,
That spotless sheet, who tried to contradict.
He quoted purifying texts and spurned
The wine that nature raised and crafted sweet.
Yet "Loosen up!" uproared the host to him.
"The time has come to celebrate," said Kay,
Beloved knight, step-brother to the King,
"Aloft thy wine, below thy gills! Drink! Laugh!
Your stomach is a falsehood-spewing fool,
It must be drowned for you to feel a lord.
I speak a sooth, you need wine's fleeting bliss!
Know thee that man's tomorrows bleed him dry:
A wade through death and depths as sure as pain
That shall tomorrow light your brow. Laugh! Drink!"
Bold cheering spread with Kay's advice, though yet
To no surprise Bors turned aside the drink,
Unblemished bore, so celebrates alone.
Weep not for him, for soon he'll find a cup
More suited to his strange of chaste and grace.
And none to waste: his share was drunk by all.
Engaged in feast Owain ap Urien,
Engaged in tale now Bedwyr and Kay,
And Lancelot made eyes at Gwenevere.
It was a feast of great success and joy
As fitting of the season's robust gleam,
Yet two there were with shallow-rooted smiles.
Prince Mordred one, though ever-somber he:
Accursed spawn with bone in place of heart
And dreaded incantations for his blood;
His brooding perched like crow on him. Alas:
The other joy-bled man had beard aflame,
A bear-skin drape, and crystal eyes, the Lord
He was of Caerleon and Mordred both.
'Twas not the gleam in lover's gaze that vexed
Though it was seen; he had no heart in him
To chain his Queen as if in dungeon steel,
For Arthur lived believing to be fair
Was paramount, to even paramour.
It wreaked its toll, yet caused small grief this day.
Not even serpent son gave cause to mourn
That greater was than missing nephew's spot
Among the feast. His chair was naked bare
Returned though he should be from faerie quest.
At Calan Gaeaf they expected him
When winter storms had racked their shoddy hall,
Yet since, the months had rolled to Gwyl Fair
The milder season come, but not his kin.
The image of his maiméd corpse did taunt
And haunt the agéd mind of Arthur, King,
His phantom nephew slain anon by knight
That of no flesh was made. In year that died
This green-mailed knight arrived a guest and called
Infernal challenge. Trick it seemed to them
And trick it was, for subsequent the blow,
This seaweed knight did lift his severed head
And from dead lips he cried "Well struck! Now come,
Fulfill me of my game. The year to come
Shall see thee in my home, and as agreed
My turn 'twil be to answer with my axe."
So rapt in recollecting, Arthur missed
The growing clamor that beset his hall.
His bastard cleared the grief from him with taunt,
To bring him into grief. "What say thee, Dad,"
Dripped venom from his mouth, "No love for us?
Your hail we called, but disapprove your eyes.
Methinks that far away thou seest a dream
That visits oft the elderly: a place
Thou knewst when in thy prime, with love
Now filled to burst. Yet fear us not, away!
To land of youth far more beloved than we
Whose happiness with thine own heart is twined."
"My fellow, soft!" the King began, distressed,
Yet Lancelot rose to his feet and spake
"Blackguard is he who mocks our Lord to face!
Thou palest hide, thou Mordred, sit thee down!
This sniveling craven knight should be replaced."
A sounding of the table met his speech,
Again was hailed his toast, and Arthur glad,
Though burdened to his breaking point, and sad.
"Blackguard is he who mocks our Lord to face,"
Had spake his bravest champion and friend
With no regard to Blackguard wrapped in stealth.
See how his roughspun fingers coil in hers
And how some sweetened whisper 'scapes her lips?
The beams of color-stainéd light slip down
To play upon their blissful sin almost
As if King Arthur's King approved on high.
Sovereignty is ruthless, Arthur thought,
Well-wishings of my God grow ever-faint.
I must believe in good though I am ill,
Just as I find my countrymen displeased
Though I did calculate my every breath
To see that it did stand with God's own will
To help my common people from their murk.
I fear I am not what I wished to be,
And now my only solace peaceful death.
If up to me, I'd wish it in my bed.
What horn's blare? Hark! King Arthur roused from thought.
Court gatekeeper Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr,
Dressed plain in brown, took down the horn from lips
And loud as elk called to the hall "Have cheer!
Sirs, drink another beer and wreath your brow
With springtime blooms, for lost knight fair is found!"
Old Arthur trusted not his feeble ears,
But came a hush and Lancelot confirmed:
"What ho," he boomed, "our brother has returned!
'Tis grey Gawaine, aye, Gwalchmai! Drink his hail!"
The uproar was enourmous: "Gwalchmai! Cheers!"
Was like to wake the sleeping wilderness
That hung suspended in the myth and mist.
Astonishment had come like breaking wave
Upon the thirsty sands of monarch's face
So long consigned to reap the low-tide's grief.
When Arthur's ursine hand clenched round his cup
And hailed his nephew's presence with a roar
Long lost to hibernation's hoary spell,
The hearts that beat in armor under him
Did swell to find their lord with cheer at last;
The toast they drank so hearty as to give
Sweet Dionysus pause against excess.
Though only two there were who did not drink,
And one of these were Bors, a sadness fell
Once more as tangible as any wrong
That chose to haunt a hall. 'Twas Gwalchmai grey,
The conqueror now home from quest to rest
Who would not lift his eyes to meet the King's.
"Has cheer so fled from you? Your life remains!
What black has inked you in?" the King did ask,
And silence overtook the hall to hear.
How strongly then did Gwalchmai wish to leave,
To blend once more his form to root or branch
Or soaring river. Wind, the songbird's muse,
Had been his fast companion on the road,
For known to him were many things. He was,
They say, some god that stalked the minds of man
In young enchanted places of the world
Though all his magic helped him not at court:
His shyness was a leaf obscured by rain.
Yet even gods of silence know to speak
When words of pain encircle heavy hearts.
He let them fly, birds in the sky, he said
"I failed. My quest was long and arduous,
The seasons changed while I in heather lost,
The moon its phases shed as fen-frogs called,
I floated through the endless cloying mist
That flows, a ghostly sea wrapped round our isle.
The path had nearly drowned me when I found
The chapel green enough to spell my doom.
When entered I, methought "It cannot be!"
So kind and courteous a host met me
That would have been disgrace to call him green.
He feasted me, and warmed my wounded bones,
Yet I betrayed him in the end; I failed.
I stayed his guest, and friend, and swore to him
That for his hospitality I'd share
Each thing I won while underneath his roof.
And all was well -- I'd rest, he'd hunt -- until
His wife played hearts with me. I did refuse,
But by her final trick was tempted and --
So lost all knightly honor and renoun.
Her lusts I spurned three times, but on the third
She offered me that which my heart desired,
Instead of love she begged me take her boon:
A silken girdle sewn with charms, and green,
Deceit I should have seen. She said the spells
Would keep me safe from harm and spare my life...
When on my rugged journey all I'd feared
Was twisting face of death that loomed so near.
I could not help myself, it seemed so tame,
Yet when the time had come I could not share
That gift, or else expose the husband's wife.
Beneath my armor tied when left that place,
My secret wore me down upon the bog.
It seemed the mist grew thicker, wind grew swift,
I now know under spell was I, but then
It seemed some vengence coming to a head.
My tale grows long, and past the point am I.
The Green Knight and my host were one in fraud:
An airy insect's dream. His "wife," a witch,
Had formed him out of acrid moorland soil:
Homunculus to carry out her scheme.
The blow he owed me carried little force,
Though still this scratch is plain upon my nape.
And so you see my folly plain as oak:
For though I kept the life I feared to lose
My lie grows in me like a cancer bloom
That in the span of time shall kill me sure.
I failed; I'm gone; to revelry return."
The silence, vast again, gripped all the knights
And king too dry to cry, who drowned his heart.
"Is there some madness come to roost herein?
Thy folly is ridiculous," said Kay.
"I valued mine own life past honor's flame,
A sin of selfishness, and blame, and wrong.
What of the world, if all would act as such?"
A weeping noise he made, but choked it back
And turned to leave in shame, and might have done
Had not the stout Sir Kay gripped Gwalchmai's arm.
He raised it in the air and shouted thus:
"Percieve our stunning champion stands nigh!
Though of a frail ennobled heart, we know
Thou art absolved. This trinket given free
To aid in quest I wager was for thee.
And as for sacred broken vows, this man --
You said yourself -- was conjured from a bug.
You owe him no alleigance Gwalchmai, sit!
This serious you need to be for wine:
Come sit with brothers now! We drink to thee!"
"Dispel the failure all you can, it stays
As weighty on my brain. It was a sign
To signify the kind of soul I am,
To me it showed my grimy ills and plain
Did tell my shaping, shape, and shape-to-be."
King Arthur to this nephew spake: "My child,
Is there no antidote to questing's woes?
What has become of jousts and silver swords?"
The anguish in the old man's eyes so keen
To those who knew him. Gwalchmai did reply
"Your majesty, there's not a grief can kill
My bird-like love of questing through the trees,
For only questing can redeem my shape."
"Then let us have this quest!" cried Kay beside
Him at the table, deep in drink he swore.
"Come with me, brother-knight, to clear thy mood!
You do you wrong blaspheming at yourself."
The wine was quaffed by Gwalchmai, yet he said
"I first shall stay, I need to rest my ills."
"Your ills are that which keep you ill, good knight.
I bid you come and we shall quest as birds
Who savor springtime berries in the mist."
"I shall not go, I seek my quietude."
"In sunlight you and I must bask. Comply,
Or else I challenge you by burnished blade."
All eyes on Gwalchmai, under pressure cracked
Into a grin and downed his kykeon.
"In stubborness persisting, Kay, you've won,
A river such as I could not keep stead
Against a boulder. When shall we away?
When come the summer blossoms, fair and red?
Or else not til the saps have lost their leaves?
Departure yours to choose, my brother-knight."
Kay beat upon the table and their ears
When called triumphantly "This very day,
This very hour! To help those who need aid
On holy days shall surely fix your heart.
No time to wallow in the swamp that's gone,
We now away, to break our swords with day!"
"You mock me or you heard me not, Sir Kay,
I wish not to away, I wish to rest!"
The fairest Guenevere, like silver bells,
Chimed in "You must forgive your heart's despair,
Or emanations of its guilt will plague
Your mind. I have a lunar garden if
You wish to sit in soothing calm and think."
"My queen is holy," Gwalchmai spoke in grace,
But Kay had cut him off with "Hear her not!
She will ensorce your mind to not explore,
To sit and think and mold with lunacy;
Beneath the sun we'll tred. It's known on quests
I favor Bedwyr, 'tis true, yet you
My fairest Gwalchmai, keep your wits -- and arms --
Two things in need of we shall be.
I mean you no offense, dear Bedwyr,
But I and Gwalchmai share a severed soul
And shall succeed; two sides of selfsame coin.
So come my cousin grey, to right our wrongs
We must away, to break our swords and say
'My heart is glad I did not stay at home!'
Consume your drink! We go," he trumpet-called.
Thus Gwalchmai was convinced, and so was forced
To nod politely to his Queen and stand,
Declaring to the court "I shall away,
This gloomy mood is dried beneath the sun
Though dearly do I wish some lunar grace
To lose myself in mysteries anew.
To bear this flesh is weighty, yet I've found
The strain to be rewarding in its way.
Think nothing of my former woes, they've passed
Like summer storm or wisp of misty cloud."
The hall at large did drink his hail, and then
Did thrice more drink for quest to which they went.
And Mordred scowled and drank the foulest wine
For his monsoon and fog would last his life.
So summoned then Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr
To hearken unto birds, as was his gift.
He said to all, "I shall now call my friends
And see what worthy tales of quests they bring!"
"There may be naught on Gwyl Fair," said Bors,
"A holy day, all wove with peace. Nor Gods
Nor men would stir their strife this day of days."
"We all shall see," the gatekeeper replied.
Beside his King upon the dais came
And played a serenade upon his horn
That rang throughout the keep and lands beyond.
A time did pass with no response recieved --
Slain silent was the raptness of the court --
But then through open pain in stainéd glass
A thrush did bob and weave in melody,
On finger of the Queen he briefly perched
Before he flit away upon the air.
His song so sweet, but then - what fright! No more!
A hawk had entered, just the same, and swooped,
And now the thrush was silent in his claws.
The cabinet of augers all took note
And sketched their calculations into books,
Though none, in this, more wise than Gafaelfawr
To whom the hawk said "Hail, you man of rank
Who speaks the tongue of wing-in-air. Now hark!
'Twas not in hunger slew this thrush, but fear
That what I have to tell might go unheard.
My family, we roost near Cornwall's sea
And late, the noises off the coast grew strange
As if some evil kraken raged at love.
My chicks; my wife and I; we're simple hawks.
We eat and some of us are eaten, yet
Beware the thing that slouched from out the waves.
His shape is something like a boar, but huge,
He dwarfs his kin, and hill, and oak,
This hall is large, yet he'd be stuck inside.
He does not eat what he has killed, instead
He smears the bloodied flesh on stones and trees,
What man could face a fear that bears this face?
If you could hear the rutting squeals he makes!
I swear this sooth by wind and waving plumes:
You men who craft with metal, hark!
Destroy the beast!" And then he flew away
Still calling after him "Destroy the beast!"
The court at large had heard the warbling hawk
But did not know the tongue, so only watched
Glewlwyd's unease upon his face
Until with stiff and rasping voice relayed
The content of the predatory news.
Unease began to show among the knights,
For many there recalled a beast so shaped
And all the blood and guile he took to drown
The first time. Arthur, grim, forbade Sir Kay
And Gwalchmai face these perils by themselves,
But recommended regiment of steel
To bolster ranks against the fearsome boar.
"I know this foe from days of old," he said,
His years of rule etched rough across his face,
"And so do most of you, though many gone
And this monstrosity not even slain."
But Gwalchmai said "'Twas hard indeed to win
Those relics that he bore. Remember I
That Trwyth was the name he chose, and we
Shall best him fair. Though not for trinkets now,
But with the zeal of mother guarding young:
This foe, Twrch Trwyth shall not raze the land
Nor wage a war against some peaceful ilk
While rounded table can become a shield.
Yet spare your other knights, this urgent task
Has fallen on our holy candle day.
You many of my uncle's hall," he cried,
"Who feast upon my uncle's wealth and love,
On this first day of spring, I beg you, rest,
Enjoy the fruits that winter sealed away
And celebrate your fortunes on this day!
This foe I think will pose no threat to we
Who are as razor swords of day and night.
Think yet of blooms and fairest lover's kiss
While I and Kay to wander through the mist."
Upon a bough upon the road, a wren
Pronounced a song that knighted travelers knew
And Gwalchmai whistled in the harmonies.
Four moons they'd seen upon the road,
Tonight to be their fifth, though now 'twas day
So newly formed it wore a bridal veil
Of snaking mists throughout that dreaming land.
The wren and Gwalchmai sang a merry mile
Yet parted when the sun grew high. The shroud
Dispersed somewhat, as if to clear their path,
Yet in its place the forest tangled thick.
Like sometimes dreamers find their sight a mist
So indistinct became the path they trailed,
In verdant triumph of the trees and vines
And moss that spilled like spiderwebs aloft,
That grace of light was blocked; this place was night
For all the days it wove itself in life.
The silence clung to them as tight as moss
That wisped and from the branches hung alive,
Since Gwalchmai had no heart to sing alone
And Kay's voice, though he tried, was like a drum.
They came upon a whirling forest stream
And Gwalchmai's horse did skip across on stones
Yet golden-tonguéd Kay did cry "Halt! Wait!
Across I cannot make so loaded down!
Come, shoulder some provisions, take this lance,
These extra pauldrons blue, and I shall ford."
So silver-tonguéd Gwalchmai had no choice
But bear these items over water's spray.
"You've brought too much," said Gwalchmai when across.
"The pauldrons on you now look passing strong,
I say you shall not need their sister pair."
"Why sir," said Kay, "I lov'd thee for thy brain,
I thought you knew to always be prepared."
"'Tis true indeed, we needs must be prepared
Though that advantage countered by your bulk.
It seems you could not leap a stream, how then
Can you attack Twrch Trwyth, loathsome beast?
A-many king were killed by hunted boar,
And we but knights -- these burdens shall distract
Our lowly flesh and lead us to our doom."
"Some talk for sure! I saw your pack so light
And thought you crafty, with some hidden load,
Yet now I see you've brought but scarce, you fool!
A truth now: if these shoulder-plates did fail,
What song would grace your lips? Would Gwalchmai sing
Of wonders grown to fruit with foresight's rain?"
"I ask you, Kay. If squared against this beast,
Now truly, you and he, what would you do?"
"If Trwyth-boar and I were face to fate?
With all things told I'd wish a strong defense;
His power is enourmous, I recall."
"Indeed my brother, I agree. Your shield
Must raise to block his way or else be gouged
On fearsome razor tusk. What then would you?"
"Ah, then. A deadly choice, two tusks to fear.
A warrior does always favor right --
And too shall giant scab, so I'll block left.
When Trwyth's gore comes seeking for my heart
My shield mayhaps shall crack that ugly snout."
"My dear, my fellow knight, 'tis as I feared!
We must not underestimate Trwyth,
For he is eons old and wise as stone
That sleeps in tumulus among the dead.
Thou art too focused and too loaded down,
So like to me when at the Chapel Green.
My shameful lesson scorched me with its lash
For in my mind my path was narrow, straight,
Yet in an ocean I was drowning there.
In haste to live, I took her girdle charm;
In haste I took the path presented first
With singleminded foolishness. Beware
That you as well fall not to such a trap.
I ask you Kay, if thrust to left with shield
And then discovered error in your thrust --
Discovered Trwyth's tusk upon your right --
What would you then that would not end in death?"
"I said it was a deadly choice, alas!
If with the other tusk he thrust I fear
That I'd be at his mercy. Yet, sir knight,
That thrust would mark your cue, and from the flank
A strike from Gwalchmai topples evil boar!
Do you propose that this should be our plan?"
"Misunderstood was I, and that no plan.
I meant to warn you 'gainst my failings passed,
That we may overcome. Thou knowst my mind?"
"In sooth I know it not" he said, while deep
Within the forest birds began to weep.
"To tell it plain, these riddles trick my ears
And lead me to a lack of understanding.
Yet ask me for my sword, I'll tell thee plain."
The crows grew loud as Gwalchmai said "These lips
My only two, and riddles issue forth.
How else to speak these words I do not know
Except to say, my mind was racing fast
That night in Chapel Green, and I enslaved
With soul asunder, pulled apart by thoughts.
Yet when it all was over, I was clear
For shock had swept my mind of thoughts that swoop
And hunt convictions, gnawing at the flesh
To form a cloud of worry and of hurt
That scars the soul that's rent. Dear Kay,
I say that worry will destroy our drive
Preventing adaptation in the fight.
Agaist a foe so dread, a complex plan
Would load us more than extra pauldrons blue."
"But some idea, some framework you advise?
To challenge blind a folly, sure as if
My shield I'd thrust to neither side to pause
And catch my breath." The birds had ceased their spell
And foggy quietude returned to woods
As trees began to thin and form a plain
That rolled with blossomed grasses, full of wind.
"I'm with you sir, contingencies we'll dream
To better set our expectations, yet
Indeed I ask you: pause and stay your shield
To see which side Twrch Trwyth favors first."
The crows they left behind called after them
From tangled boughs of ancient warden trees.
Grey Gwalchmai whistled in the melodies,
But discord did the black-cloaked birds pronounce.
The sweep of hills in coat of grasses sown
From finer weave than man can seek to learn
Did ripple in the wind and swell, a sea,
Through which their dappled horses waded deep.
Kay blew his hunting horn, let fly its drone,
Yet no reply returned: no human heard.
Beneath the surface of the sea-green grass
Some waves they saw that were the beasts that passed,
Some stalking prey, some hiding, slinking, swift,
And katydids did breach the surface with a leap
So like the leaping fish. "Upon my mind,"
Said Kay, the golden-tonguéd knight, "If we,
Much like these hopping things, would charge at him,
As from a sheltered secret place, my friend!
This plan the one to aid us most. We'll leap
And at the massy boar we'll charge with lance
To run him to his core! What blood he'll shed!
A plan like this says we've already won!"
"This plan has roots I like, yet needs regrowth:
The subtle sneak-attack is beauty true,
I wonder why you counter our surprise
By charging with the thunder of your hooves."
"The speed's the thing: the fastest, deadliest!
I need no more than three and ninety's pace
To spell Twrch Trwyth's end." A bird did perch,
A warbler on the arm of Gwalchmai grey,
And into song erupted. Like a gull
He called for feathered friends that on the knights
Did make their passage through the ocean hills.
"If out of hiding, Kay, you leap and yell,"
Said Gwalchmai in the breeze, "He'll notice you
And counter, block, or dodge to show us doom."
One gull did squawk agreement, so Sir Kay
In spite did sweep him from the horse's flank.
Above their helms, on wings he circled once
Then glid back down and landed in his spot.
Said Kay, "My heavy lance at heavy speed
Could pierce the thickest hide; you felt its weight.
In sooth, I say it holds our greatest hope
And finds the surest route to Arthur's hall --
Regardless of the risks that you foretell."
"And if you miss, then all and life is lost.
Surprise, it seems, would be the greater strength
To draw us home alive when deed is done.
It seems a waste, for one attack, to lose
This mighty hunting notion we have brought."
Kay said "What then do you suggest? Should we,
With bows, all silent stalk our monstrous prey?
If he should spot us thusly armed, a paste
We would become. At last, these birds have flown!
Some nuissances were they, my ears at ease
Now they have gone to seek some other stage."
"Look there upon the further hill. They swoop
And circle round: there's something in the grass."
And so they turned their mounts aside to seek
The mystery beneath the emerald sea.
The birds were gone, they'd landed in the waves,
But Gwalchmai in his stare did hold the spot
And set their course unerringly to sail
Through crash of green to island in the rough.
There, overgrown, amidst the flowers white,
Abandoned stones and songs: a sacred Well.
No birds in sight yet there a hobbled man,
To errant knights did call "Well met, young sirs,
Dismount and let me tend to you. This Well
Has healed those wounded long, those sadly cursed,
And those whose birth was tainted by a death."
"And who are you," said Kay, "who guards this place?
Thou dost not live among these plains of grass,
Nor from the hall of Arthur, that I know.
Where dwell your ilk, and wherefore are you here?"
"A man of questions, this I know," he rasped
And hacked a cough into his ragged sleeve.
Arthritis gripped his hands, his knuckles oak --
With sickness in his veins he clutched the rope
And tugged upon its lifeless length with strain
That rattled in his chest and wore his bones.
Sir Kay dismounted with a grunt to help,
And soon had drawn the ancient pitcher up.
"I would not trust this water, strange it seems
To drain the ocean underneath the land.
What if we sink, had that thought crossed your mind?
O, they who drink of wells know not their guilt."
The man of oaken knuckles heard him not
And downed the pitcherfull of melted ice.
Before the knights could blink, it seemed he'd shed
His weariness, his age, some weighty cloak
Was lifted from his shoulders and his heart.
The more the old man quaffed the straighter still
His spine did rearrange and form a shape
That spoke of strength and youth. The knights agape:
The miracles they'd seen before were sly,
Some subtlety upon the rim of thought,
As slight as if they'd mattered not at all --
Yet when examined by the brain their light
Exploded with the radiance that births a star.
This sight before them shook them to their greaves
And nearly shook their faith, each wondering
If they were truly men of god before.
"This Well a gift to man much like the sun,"
Then spoke the ancient man with reformed lips,
"For in his need, it helps him shine through all.
My limbs renewed as they have been each day
Since we, awash within these endless seas,
First birthed our way upon the land, from surf.
Some countless years have I, some countless dreams
I've dreamed and killed with fullness of the moon.
From now until tomorrow's brighter sun
I'll wither, flake, and nearly die, and yet
I'll draw elixir from the liquid deep
And drink a dream that neither lives nor dies.
Come Kay! Come Gwalchmai! Drink to me a hail
From water sleeping far below the hills.
Upon your task so grim, this potion sip
And strength your breast will fill, and sight your brow,
And thrust your mighty arms to pierce the beast."
Already Kay had cast the pail back in,
They heard it fall and strike the walls and splash
Far deep below where sunlight wanes and dies.
Yet "Halt!" cried Gwalchmai, "let us take a breath
Before we taste this precious blood of stones.
I fear we sway upon the brink of doom,
As blinded men repeating gloomy past.
One thought towards my plight and you will see
It parallels our own: we must refuse."
"What rot and nonsense," snorted blunt Sir Kay.
"This gift upon our route was placed -- this Well
Provides exactly that which cures our griefs!"
He clutched the rope, his gauntlet gripping firm,
And Gwalchmai too dismounted then to warn:
"Kay, have you ears? This Well is not a gift,
But foul temptation placed thus in our way.
'Twould seem we've naught to lose, yet there's the snare!
I thought the same when I took matron's belt,
But only after did it change to guilt.
We have the power, you and I! My blood,
I promise you we'll slay this beast as planned --
But on our own, and not with help from gods.
To take that gift when gifted as we are
Corrupts the boon until it eats your mind.
I say to you, the power we posess
Shall slay the boar, shall mend the realm, and still
Shall find us home in Arthur's sacred walls."
"What mind is it that scoffs at graceful luck?
A boon becoming sour is not the fault
Of he who gave the gift! How is the taste,
What is the water like in caverns dark?
Am I to never know?" He dropped the rope.
"As you're the one returned from quest, I'll heed,
But such a draught as this would mend my mind.
I know my strength, yet still the face of death
Reflects within my dreams and waking thoughts.
What death, to die. Long-sought, the cure. And yet
Grey Gwalchmai bids me turn aside this cup."
"It is our lot to suffer: we are men.
Were we to hold the power that kills death
No honor could we find though foes we slew
Or righted wrongs the whole day through. In grief
Is glory won; in blood and screams of birth.
Come Kay, the things of honor's worth we seek
Without divine protection meant to aid,
For with it comes a blunting of the soul."
"We thank you well, you agéd man," said Kay,
"My heart that thirsts, your kindness must refuse
For I, it seems, am bound by higher laws
Than those that rule my flesh and blood and bone."
The old man cried "You made your choice," and then
He flew away. He was the birds they'd met,
The warblers from the rolling dunes of sea.
That half-remembered melody grew faint
And died upon the winds. And they were left
Once more adrift, alone upon the waves.
The sun was red, and sank as they set out:
A disc of light entangled in the mists.
Before blue twilight cloaked the land in full
Sir Kay began "I wish to hear this plan,
That safer is than immortality.
With bows we shall be slain, I still protest."
And Gwalchmai turned and smiled, thin-lipped and sly.
"If monstrous foe is marked by poison shafts
In rage he'll charge as boars are wont to do --
We all have flaws that can be overcome.
He'll rush at me, revenge for piercing pain,
Yet arrows with a paralyzing foam
Shall slow his mountain-moving hooves to cease,
And you shall guide your mighty lightning lance
To arc and sunder ribs and heart from beast."
When Kay had grasped the strategy he paused
And turned the image over in his mind
And rode on silent over hills that twist
Forever through the drifting of the mist.
Along the coast they rode, on stony shoals
Their errant hooves blazed trails until the dawn
When clouds were pink and pale in sky asleep.
The crashing waves, eternal thunder, pulsed
And danced their cycles, tongueless, to the moon.
A salt was on the wind. Sir Kay in thought
At last in weak tones spoke "See thee the sea?
See thee its cold embrace? I see the crests
All vanishing behind the foggy veil.
What lies beyond these shores through which we steal?
Do further lands upon the ocean dwell,
Or else our island all alone? In sleep
I wander out upon the spray and crash:
The coldness of her glass upon my soles,
The blindness in the belly of the mist.
Is there an island like our own, out there,
Or is the world divided like the spans
A human knows in life? That is to say
We live as men upon the lands, then die,
And drift beneath dramatic waves in death?
The clouds of hell and heaven hanging low
Some hidden life obscures perhaps, some gem,
Yet fancy is a ghost that plagues the young;
Its velvet lips no longer grace my cheek;
No kiss could drain the pallor of the mists.
That shapeless country swallows all I know,
For there is naught beyond this island's shore
Except the sea, the stars, and wispy veil."
And on they rode in silence through the foam
'Til Gwalchmai in reply did purse his lips
And rouse from them a birdsong of the night
That on their minds in sweetness broke with tide.
His song did soar above the ocean dirge
And lifted too their hearts upon the spray
As long as he did play. The jagged rocks
And dessicated seaweed rags, all rough,
Were scattered on the sands of lonely beach.
The song that soared brought back their hearts to them
And grey-cloaked Gwalchmai said "The seas are rough
And hard to see beyond because of mist.
These shores are strange, the ocean stranger still,
For who can know the form of all unknown?
We see our lives in greater focus, for,
By sooth, we live them thoroughly, or try.
Yet oceans hold a life as sure as we,
And far from us suspend a further shore
Where blossoms tender as our own are grown,
Yet stranger in their traits, and dissonant.
And we may know these blooms, these fish, and yet
The bounds of knowledge never can be crossed --
And pieces of a thing, try as they might,
Can not their sum behold with certainty.
The life we live a journey through the dark,
And only when we live no more can lights
Dispel the shade revealing hidden truth."
The moon was dragged beneath the hungry mist
And certain stars extinguished glowing souls
Until the night was siphoned from the sky
And dawn, in gloom and seagull cries, was born.
"We are to face the beast but soon," said Kay.
Some fright is in my bones and makes me think
On all the mysteries beyond the shroud,
On all the stars with secret tales to tell.
Perhaps I'll meet them as I journey by,
If fearsome foe is lucky with a tusk.
My bones will stay behind, I'm sure. Will I
Remain? Or shall I sail that milky road?
I wish a proper burial beneath...
Or should you burn what's left? I wish I knew.
The future drenched in mist alike; I'm blind."
"As all are blind who try to see ahead:
So many streams that weave within this world
Not one of us can grasp them tight enough
To read from them the things not yet to pass.
This plan we've made, the best we could design,
Yet still we must adapt to keep our lives.
My soul afraid as well -- my blood grows thick!
I like the storm of combat less than you,
Preferring turn-of-chance, or subtlety.
Yet far too great a beast Twrch Trwyth is,
We cannot win with stealthiness alone.
I fear I've brought a doom, I'm sorry Kay,
My nervous hexes make me wonder sore
If we should not have drunk from holy Well.
In anguish to redeem my past I hope
I have not slain us both in honor's name.
No song will help me now. I wander, borne
Upon the coastal gusts, a common gull.
I wish, I wish, I wish, yet am the wind.
No song of birds shall ever help me now:
To be a man means being lost at sea.
Yet even as the waves turn cloak and crash
They bring a touch of chaos as they break
And sometimes break for good, instead of ill.
To truly harmonize with swollen seas
The crest of waves that pass us we must ride
And with our circumstances roll our path.
True plans, those set in stone, can never work
For they ignore the iron whims of fate.
Some good shall come, I swear, or else some ill.
To say this thing puts weakness in my bones,
Yet we must forge ahead and worry not
For things shall come to pass for good or ill,
And we must roll our way along the path
That seems the best to we in heedless haste.
We have no course but try our might on him,
And hope that glory shines on us, and pray,
Yet prayers do naught but voice the soul's desire.
If only fate could heed the pleas of each
Instead of all… I wish she'd care for me.
Alas, my knight, my friend: the world must turn."
"I worry for our souls, will they endure?
Is there a deathless country I'll explore?
I cannot bear the thought of nothing, nil!"
"If I should live and you should die, be sure
Your corpse shall rest beneath the undelved earth.
Yet if you breathe when I do not, be gone,
And bear thy victory to Arthur's hall
And not the rags I leave behind in death.
The skin a snake has shed he does not keep,
For when he's shed he needs his old clothes not.
A stellar skin I'll have when I am gone,
And gusts of wind shall be my shifting hair,
With not a thought to corpse I'd shed with life.
When death arrives, I hope that's how he comes:
A death that I'd enjoy between some spans
Of lonely life." Waves fell upon the shore
And stars did weep while fading from the sky
Delivering the heavy red of dawn
That cloak of dying night could not resist
As permeated through the veil of mist.
The morning sprawled above like evil haze
That hid the sun from them and hid its warmth
And hid the hope that rises with the dawn.
Through weaves of vines and tangled thorns they slipped
As silent as a stalking lion's breath;
Their eyes were mirrors waiting for a face
To give them shape and soul and purpose plain:
The face they stalked was like to find its end.
On conversation, like a raft, they'd sailed
From ivor stones of Caerleon on Usk;
The rafts had borne their minds and words above
Subconscious waters, beast of brain in man,
Yet here inside the silent forest's gloom
Their words had sunk below and drowned their thoughts,
And caught within the blood sport's dimmer tide
Some instinct swept their reasons all aside,
Along with all the easy wit they'd shown
When rounded by their kin and men-at-arms
Within the eggshell walls of Arthur's keep.
Now stripped from all the comforts of their hall
Through weary woods on foot they stalked in fear;
Their steeds they'd stowed in safety by the shore
And if these riders never left the woods
Some peasants plain would profit well that day.
Sir Gwalchmai's fingers played upon the string
Of longbow itching for an arrow's touch --
Yet from his slow-slung quiver naught was drawn,
For prey the knights glimpsed not; the forest mute.
Amidst the wilderness were they when snagged
Upon a branch Kay's cloak held fast. The thorns
Had clawed between some fabric's willful folds
And startled Kay enough to break the spell
His hunting brain had cast. "Wait!" he blurted,
Before he hushed himself and cut it loose.
Grey Gwalchmai whispered "Cease your blunders, come."
And Kay was swift behind him, trampling buds.
"I'm sorry," said the golden knight, "I wish
I'd had the foresight not to cry aloud.
These woods are strange and frightening to me,
And nothing like the peaceful woods of Usk."
"Then why do you still speak? We tread the edge
Of keen assasin's blade, and you persist
In babbling like a painted jester's son."
"If not in dire alert I'd challenge thee
For on my honor jesting. In the spring--"
But there was Kay cut off, for both their ears
Began to hear a muffled grunting, wet
And hungry in its lurid rasp. The knights
Swift swept behind some trees and hoped they'd not
Been seen. Grey Gwalchmai chanced a glance beyond,
And boar he saw, but of an average size.
The knights were stunned in silence, breathing fast,
And whispered Kay "He's large, but not by much,
An end you'll strum, I know." But boar did perk
At hearing something in the vines, and yelled --
An ugly trumpet-cry that scarred the wind.
From drooping quiver, Gwalchmai slid one shaft
And strummed it as the bow of violin
Against the poison foam that hung thereon,
And fit the seagull's feather to the string.
Yet time enough was not for him to aim
When calm destroyed by shrieking thunder's clap
From farther in the gorey wood. What cry?
What beast could pierce the heavens with a sound?
The knights against some stones did press their backs
As shredded trees despaired and fell aside
Where trampled errant mountain, hellish boar,
His back above the tree-tops, thorns and vines
Deterred his mighty frame like paper shields.
He made a clearing as he settled down,
His amber eye was full the size of boar
They'd met before. The lesser and the great
Conversed not long in shieking tongue of swine
Before Twrch Trwyth rose and showed his height
And belched aloud in human tongue "Some men?
Some shining knights? Yes… now I smell their sweat.
But what have they to sneak within these lands
That I have mounted, conquered, killed? My will
Within this smitten place is absolute."
His lips were fleshy, black and slick with drool,
His breath a foul disease that plagued the land.
Some tears of fear then from the knights did spill
But Gwalchmai grey, as per the plan, snuck off
To flank the giant boar. He stayed downwind
And cared to rustle not the smallest leaf
Nor waving sprig of fern. Twrch Trwyth called
"Some cowards then? Some belly-crawling knights?
Or are you even hunters? Lost perhaps
And trespassing in my domain unknown.
Think not on how to flee my flaming wrath
For I shall gnaw your bones and gouge your skin,
And douse your hope. So run, but you are mine."
His solar eye rolled all around to see,
But though he grunted, trampled, turned his frame
He could not spy the knights disguised in green.
Sir Kay perspired below his armor's weight
And tightly gripped the rough of moss and bark
As Trwyth's growling shivered in his bones.
His heavy lance was nestled 'neath his neck
And fingers ached as clasped around its grip.
The plan they'd tossed between them on the way
Seemed murky, dim, an algae-covered pond
Congealing think about his gasping face.
He closed his eyes and held them tight in hope
But when he looked again the shrubs still crashed
And oaken trunks still torn apart and flayed
As Trwyth wheeled and furiously sought
The spears that shifted underneath the leaves.
He crawled around the tree, Sir Kay, to peek,
And saw the massive reeling boar in rage,
But not a hint of greyest Gwalchmai showed.
He swallowed. "Why do I return to fear,
As if this battle were my first?" he thought.
"Anxiety enflames my veins as if
Of jelly I was wrought. Must pain arrive
Before my every battle? Seasoned, I,
And truthful under armor, kind, and strong.
My heart, what wounds let spill your precious sap?
Can it be done? Can we succeed in this?
No reason I can find that death should wait
And stall to visit me another day."
Some tears as angels flowed within his eyes
And all the story of his life made sense
In these the final hours he breathed in life.
A flash of youthful training in the yard
With father Ector, and a scrawny boy
Who soon became his liege -- and all the wars
In which he'd been a bloody part. This beast
Was in his vision too, for they had dueled
And Arthur's knights had nobly bested boar
To exile Trwyth under churning tides.
His sheen of sweat began to sting his eyes
And stirred him from his instant dream of death.
And this was why he turned and saw, in flight,
The poison shafts that Gwalchmai grey had loosed.
They seemed to spell some doom with purest arc
In which they flew, and when they struck the flesh
Of mountain-dwarfing boar -- upon his thigh --
The sound was almost heard of damning bell
As one that tolls for men. At once a squeal
Impaled the air and sent the birds from trees;
The caterwaul as shrill as gate to hell
That from its hinges reels with terror's flame.
The trees were churned and trampled, now he knew
Where unseen archer set his hiding spot.
Like thunder underground the earth did shake
As beast began his fearsome shrieking charge.
Between the knights Twrch Trwyth shook the woods
And with his monstrous frame he moved as swift
As summer squall upon the thirsty plains.
And he was nearly there, to Gwalchmai's cloak,
When secret foam made contact with his blood
And paralyzed the leg where arrows stuck.
He made a vicious sprawl and crushed some trees
Beneath his weight which fell like sculpted bronze.
The instant Trwyth fell, in rushed his cub
That knights had seen before, that smaller boar,
And nuzzled at the giant's fallen flank.
Yet mountain that had fallen flailed in wrath
And nearly struck the smaller son, who fled.
Twrch Trwyth roared and kicked his frantic hooves
And bellowed as he tried to right himself
Without the limb that Gwalchmai's foam made lame.
His tusks dug furrows in the ground, he drooled
And choked while screaming curses wet and raw,
And then it was that Kay percieved his chance
And leapt, with lance, from shadowed hiding place
To charge his foe. The giant's eyes were wide
And rolled within his skull, but glimpsed not Kay
While raging to regain his balance lost.
Sir Kay beneath his armor lacked in speed,
Yet in precision made his tactic count:
When he had reached the beast -- unseen from wrath --
He planted rooting foot upon the soil
And thrust his lance between the demon's ribs
With all the might that dwells in faithful hearts.
The lance did pierce the bristled mane of hair
And skin wrapped underneath, and muscles taut,
Yet somehow Trwyth closed his ribs like teeth
And grasped the tip of lance and held it fast,
And wrested it away from from Kay, who shrunk,
But only for the time it dook to draw
His burnished blade. He charged the writhing boar
And carved him up, his hacking wily, fierce,
And though the wounds were weeping blood, no cut
Could penetrate the the toughness of his flesh.
Unspoken boar who rose from ocean depths
Now rose upon his hooves and stood aright
Though knight was feverishly flaying him
In vain attempt to cease his curséd heart.
The buried tusk was fast and slammed Sir Kay
Upon the jagged ground. He grabbed his side,
The gauntlets bloodied on the armored knight,
Exhaustion in his limbs: the aches of age.
He knelt, but struggled to his feet, on guard
Against the thundercloud of demon boar:
Twrch Trwyth shook his tusks and roared of hell
While using three good legs to surge at Kay --
The monstrous boar was heedless of the trees
And ran them down, the prey could only flee
To save himself from being crushed to clay.
He turned his back and rushed through undergrowth
Evading trample of enragéd boar
By running random as the whims of fate.
The crash of trees was deafening, yet still
He heard a novel sound: an arrow's cry
As like the kind in use by hunting men
Who signal from afar. He turned his head
And saw that Trwyth too had heard the sound.
Another arrow screamed at them, and struck
The face of raging boar, below his eye.
He stopped his charge. He sniffed and looked around
With eyes moon-huge and yellow, mad with blood,
He spat and yelled and turned his bulk towards
The screaming taunting arrows' path behind,
Abandoning the helpless Kay who bled
And clutched his side where demon tusk defiled
The plates that formed his armor. On a trunk
He leaned and braced his back and felt his wound.
The eyes Twrch Trwyth bore could see the man
Who stood upon a broken tree and loosed
Another stinging dart that screamed and stuck
Between the bristles on his shoulders' hills.
The legs Twrch Trwyth used were mostly free
From ugly burning venom, he was sure
And building up tremendous speed and rage
Towards the tiny knight in cloak of grey.
The tusks Twrch Trwyth bore were sharply honed,
He lowered them as he approached his prey,
Prepared to smash the trees on which he stood
To driftwood, splinters, powder; all to dust.
That simple archer with his cloak of grey
Rebellious stood against Twrch Trwyth's rush
Atop a leaf-bare tree that he had climbed
By way of leaning trunk that beast had split.
Another bristle stung the foul pig's face
Provoking yet another shrieking squeal
And thunder from his hooves did crack the ground
As speed increased; damn murder spelled in drool
Upon the lips of bloody boar. He was,
They say, some god that stalked the minds of man
In young and dismal places of the world
Though all his power helped him not in duels:
His satiation in the sacrificed
Of forest cults who bled themselves for him.
As god who ruled their rage, his temper grew
Eclipsing all his thought divine while trapped
For ages in his prison 'neath the waves.
His roar was with the lungs of mindless beast,
For all his grace departed when he slew
Distraught in carnage and in love with hate.
And this is how it came to pass that he,
Twrch Trwyth, god of rage of vengeful clans
In holy bloodlust slain. He roared, he charged,
And agile knight of grey did slip aside
To hold the leaning trunk, and fall with it,
Exposing in its fulcrum nether side
Of trunk which carved had been to sharpened point.
It was momentum killed the beast, and kills
Us all. The monster's ribs like teeth again
Did close around the piercing tree, yet cracked
And could not halt enough his deadly charge.
And we who hold our broken hearts and moan
Are ants to him who feels his organ torn,
Exploding virile blood within his chest.
The shriek he wretched was toxic to the ear
And ripped the birds from nests and spoiled milk.
The blood was flowing from his mouth yet still
The fallen god pressed on, devouring lance
With wound until it broke behind his back,
Emerging coated in his sanguine slime.
As far as dying hooves could press he came,
'Til Gwalchmai, fallen, well could smell the breath
That once crushed kings beneath the founding soil.
A dying ocean poured from mouth of dying god,
This ocean too he poured: "I never thought
To meet my end upon this earth. Am I
A traveller bound for damned damnation, or
Will sweet salvation find me? All I've done,
The work that I was brought about to do.
I hope some justice, fair reward to reap,
And curse you, foul grey knight of Arthur's camp:
I hope to never see your ilk again,
I hope you meet your end upon this earth
And all you love shall come to ill and death.
As long as I am dead, you too shall be.
This knight I curse, my pain has barbed his heart,
And so I die." And so he died, the god,
Twrch Trwyth of the bloodied forest cults
Who rent the land in rage. His soul, at peace,
Ascended from the matter of his flesh,
He rose: from every pore to every cyst,
His spirit joined the endless veil of mist.
When Kay was found among the roots and leaves
He'd stained the earth with heavy blood that oozed
From gash along his side. His plate was off,
His pauldrons too, he'd stripped them down
Allowing wound to bleed. "We must away,"
Said Gwalchmai, dragging Kay to shaking feet.
"Some shelter we can find, some place to rest
And eat, and heal ourselves. We've done it, Kay!
The beast is dead! The monster boar lies slain!"
But only dull approving nod gave Kay,
So dazed from loss of strength. He faintly walked
While Gwalchmai struggled sore to hold him up,
And bind the ragged rip that wept his blood,
And on and on the miles to forest's end.
Through haze of pain Sir Kay did weakly smile,
"Perhaps this is a dream from fevered wound
Across my side, yet what do I recall?
Some Well we found, some magic hidden stream?
I wish that this were true, for I've a thirst."
His head did limply nod 'gainst guilty knight,
Grey Gwalchmai bore Sir Kay, and felt his pain,
But Kay had passed from consciousness to sleep,
And damning thoughts, like ghosts, drained Gwalchmai's mind
As through the tangled nest of vines he strode
While setting sun gave way to twilight gloom.
A noise behind, some rustle in the leaves
Alerted grey-cloaked knight to draw his sword
And lay unconscious Kay to rest in peace
Among a bed of bluebells, in the shade.
The guilty Gwalchmai waved his brand about
And called "Seek not this foe! I am a knight
In sore despair, and all with hate shall meet
This blade that drinks of hearts." From shadowed leaves
The rustle was pronounced and shape there came:
The youngling boar, still of a size with men,
Stepped through the vines and snarled, dripping drool.
A grace came over silver knight aloof
And into stance he slipped like falling leaf.
His steel was poised, his arms were steel, his mind
The undercurrents of a mountain stream.
His voice was subtler still when then he spoke
Behind his mask of concentration. "I…
Am sorry. Trwyth was a beast of lust
That threatened peace in woods that stretch between
These endless seas of mist. Deserved his death
Perhaps I'd say he did, were I to judge,
But I do not, and meant no harm to you
In either course. If raw your heart and blood,
If raw your veins and all your brains are boiled,
Then seek us out when you are grown with strength
For Justice is our courthouse built upon,
And thus is how we hold King Arthur's court.
Yet learn, I urge you son of forest god,
The ways your father was corrupt, and grow
From out of them to throne of nature's power!
Injustice is a wheel that faster turns
When we reach out to spin its ugly spokes."
They stood, they two, the man and hateful beast,
Surveying pools behind the others' eyes
And slowly, very slow, the vines and thick
Did swallow younger boar beneath their dark.
A sigh expelled the worried winds inside
As Gwalchmai hefted Kay across his back
And dragged him from the silent woods of death.
Beyond the nest of twisting angry trees
They found, in plains that bordered ceaseless shore,
A lonesome farmer's cottage on the hill.
The orange friendly light from windows spilled,
Illuminating pockets of the mist
That shifted white and grey like Gwalchmai's cloak.
His gauntlet wrapped upon the wooden door
Disturbing restful night from those within.
There was a peaceful farmer, and his wife,
And faithful donkey steed who slept with them
Beside the breathing swirling tongues of flame
That barely clung to life. The life in Kay
As faint as glowing embers in the cold
Of early winter. "I must beg your help,"
Said Gwalchmai grey to them. "A knight I am,
Of Arthur's court with knightly friend in need.
Some shelter, food, is all that we require,
I humbly beg you sovereign farmer lords."
A kindly couple roused from sleep they were,
And sheltered knights for nights and days while Kay
Did heal. His consciousness was in and out, he dreamed
Of other lives that people might have lived
And other shores inhabited. Are these
Delusionary thoughts, or prophecies,
He wondered in the pathways of his rest.
While Kay did sleep and farmers farmed their fields
The honest Gwalchmai rode the donkey steed
And after several setting suns, returned
With mounts in tow that they had brought and lost,
With saddlebags of Caerleon intact.
A gift he made of boons he stored within
And labored in the kindly couple's fields
As one of them. And every plant he touched
Was blessed to be perennial and green,
For him the secret god who led our minds
In times when wilderness was all we knew.
And when the moon saw wide with opened lids
Sir Gwalchmai and Sir Kay set out for home.
The fields they passed gave way to plains in bloom,
Splotched red and pink and dewy blonde, the hills
That swelled as ocean waves propelled them home
And kept them not to wander endless seas.
The plains they passed gave way to woods of light,
Aglow with bough and leaf of sleepy green
And sneaky white of moss and lichen ghost,
Unlike the gloomy woods where beast was felled
Where vines had choked the breath of branch and bird.
The woods through which they rode became well-known
The acrobatic trunks grew pale and slight
With strange and twisted summer plants asleep,
And silver leaves did crown the canopy.
The streams ran in to one, as do our hearts,
And mighty river Usk revealed the route
To bring them to the foot of fabled keep...
Where Arthur never truly held his court
Or lived, but in the trails from heart to heart.
He sat upon his throne and drank his wine,
Another dismal holy feast. He was,
They say, some god that stalked the minds of man
In strange and hollow places of the world
Though all his justice helped him not with joy:
His loneliness a barren mother swan.
Some friends from table absent, killed in spite
Or simply lost, or late, no king could tell.
And Mordred, since Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllau,
Had fled to raise black-hearted armies hence,
And if today he'd shown his face, a host
Would flail the king's own blood into his grave.
My son, my son, the agéd monarch thought,
We must dissolve our feud and live as one,
My son, my son, my only son. This feast
Has been undone by absences of kin.
From Gwyl Fair to Calan Mai he'd dreamt
A silver stag had claimed a forest knoll
And raised a silver foal, and made a home.
And hunters from the Darkness Land had come
To feed their tribe and gorge and multiply.
These dreams arrived whenever there was night,
And Arthur knew the hunters were his knights
Who chased the demon boar in different woods.
His tribe, and tribes of men would fill the earth
When all the gods were dead within their minds,
And his the hand that helped to shape this end.
He stroked his regal beard and sighed, and drank,
Bemoaning Calan Mai and murky wine
Though sunlit strands in feasting hall did play
And larks and loons were guests this holy day.
The burden of an honest king as great
As death of love with every judgment made,
And ursine Arthur frayed with weight and age.
The quests he'd set in motion often failed --
He mourned the ones who fell, their faces kept
In jars of memory -- yet on this day,
The holy Calan Mai, his knights returned.
Glewlwyd the gatekeeper let blare his horn,
Some startled birds took flight from tablecloth
To dye the court a host of joyful hues.
"Presenting, Lord, your mighty friends, the two
Who slew the demon boar, and ceased his ways,
And ever after cloaked our realm in peace
From hungry things who wish our table harm!
The order gained was sorely won by these:
Sirs Kay and Gwalchmai chaos killed this day!"
A mood erupted from the hall did raise
All cheers, all cups, all spirits there, and King
From off his throne did rise to greet his knights,
And met them halfway down the hall with cheer
So unrestrained that some had never seen
Their Lord in such a humor. When they met
They all embraced and Arthur said "Sir Kay,
My loving brother, ever conqueror,
My nephew, sly, my oldest friends returned,
With all the fire remaining in my bones
I welcome pair of souls that gods have blessed.
I dreamed this many night while hunted you,
And saw success, and wondered if it true.
And you have brought my heart returned to me
While still it beats and pumps its waning blood
And I am lost, though I am never free."
His knights returned him to the throne and kneeled,
And with the shining Clarent, sword of peace,
King Arthur blessed them both. The other blade,
The brand far-feared, Caledfwich, was lost
Beneath the lake, returned to Vivianne.
The King had mourned when it was gone, yet now
Its sister sword did twice the work, and shed
No drops of blood. The holy steel seemed kind
When lit upon their pauldrons, cleansing them
Of ills they'd met upon the road. And there
Was Guenivere to meet them as they rose.
In slender arms embraced them both with love
And gave her queenly thanks for bringing peace.
And at the Dream Queen's side, of course, was him,
Invincible in tournaments and fierce
With honor and with lance. He welcomed Kay,
And Gwalchmai, brothers with their brotherhood
United once again. These three are bound
In honor, and in lance, thought Arthur, King,
And are they bound as well to Gwenivere?
Unhappily he wondered to himself,
The cleft within his heart did always sting.
To shake the notions from his head and force
A joyous mood, he begged them tell their tale.
So Kay began: "We left when spring was new,
And forest woke from melting bed of snow,
We forded ancient streams grown rough and wide
And passed from woods that wrap our odal lands.
Upon the plains, a flock of friendly birds
Heard Gwalchmai's song, and came to meet with us.
Befriended we these birds that song inspired,
They led us to their treasure in the hills:
It was a Sacred Well, forgotten, bare,
Laid out as if the gods had said 'This draft
Sustain your weary fleshy limbs my son,'
But noble Gwalchmai thought refusal best,
And we set out without the vital cure
That might have purged our worldly ills and sins."
"Your story here runs false, Sir Kay. The Well,"
Said Gwalchmai grey, "was meant to tempt our souls.
A gift so great laid plain aroused my doubt
And thus I said we should not drink of it.
Recall, my King, thou knights, my former tale
And how acceptance of a mighty gift
Illuminated all my vulgar sins.
I saw a parallel, and that was all."
"If I may tell the story as I like,
We left that holy place that gods had sent
And wandered off to further crashing shore
Where forest with a stench of death we found.
Glewlwyd had spoken true, the blood
And bodies smeared the bark and jagged stones.
A monster Trwyth was when face to face.
Above the trees he stood, and Caerleon
He could have cracked with single iron hoof.
His blood began to burn when scent he caught
Of men that stumbled through his gorey nest,
But Gwalchmai had devised a cunning plan
To flay the beast 'til insides were without:
My might and shield distracted fearsome foe
While Gwalchmai set his trap and loosed his bow
And poison shafts did pierce the flesh of boar
And brought him low -- a titan fallen flat.
I carved his flesh and pricked his rage and thus
Recieved the grevious wound that kept us hence.
Though healed am I, regained in faculties,
A curse I may have sworn 'gainst brother here."
The court replied in laughter, Gwalchmai said
"And here you stand, delivering the tale.
I rather you had cursed me there and lived
To see this day, than blackened noble soul.
My role within the story now at hand,
A sooth I must relate: I set no trap.
Coincidence that fallen trees aligned
For me to sharpen trunk and have a lance.
My part was small, Twrch Trwyth forced himself
Upon the spear that pierced his breast and heart.
He cursed us on his final dying breath,
Yet hex was merely dissipating hate
That breezes caught, and into all dissolved.
We ended him," grey Gwalchmai finished soft.
And Arthur stroked his beard and said to them
"Twrch Trwyth gone, his kind is now annulled?"
All Kay could do was raise his sword in air
To mirror final thrust against a foe,
Asserting demon's death to all the court.
They cheered, and Arthur grew a knowing frown,
Yet Gwalchmai understood. "My liege, a child.
The fearsome beast was with his frightened young.
While Kay was out from loss of blood, we met,
The youngling boar and I. I thought it wrong
To slay a creature cold before 'twas grown,
So words were all we had, I let it go;
If ever spirits leave the world, we know
There is another nature god to grow."
And peace had crept upon King Arthur's eyes,
And underneath his beard a smile appeared
That lightened all his court. The birds gave cheer,
As did the knights and ladies, beasts and plants,
The stones that made the castle, mountain bones,
And all the land asleep in ancient myths
That coiled about the island in the mists.