Sunday, November 14, 2010

Poetry Train - 178 - On That Glorious Day

I'm on Day 14 of NaNoWriMo.

For the Poetry Train this week, here's a teaser from my current NaNo manuscript, currently at 23,000 words.

This is a found poem taken from my prose work-in-progress. It introduces the Lady Elysande, the noblewoman who takes the adult Scorpius - featured each Saturday in my serialized fiction - to work for her as her chamberlain when he is released from captivity along with her cousin, a hostage of a rival royal family.

The events of this poem take place in Elysande's young childhood and just as she comes into womanhood, as a youth. But it's narrated by the man in her life, Xaviero, the captain of the guard at her family's estate. For readers of my Weekend Writer's Retreat, Xaviero is a figure from Richolf's storyline.

On That Glorious Day

His body trembled
Trembled with the knowledge that it
Was finally over

No more waiting
His beloved approached
With slow
And measured steps
Her skirts rustling as she
Crossed the stone floor

Xaviero dropped to his knees
Beseeching her with
A tormented gaze
“You don’t know what you’re asking of me.”

He'd knelt before her once before

On that glorious day
When they'd first met
“How do you know how he feels?” he'd asked
Meaning the guard he'd put to the lash

She'd shrugged

“Do you submit to me, darling one?" she asked now
She smiled at him so sweetly
She was like an angel
An angel of vengeance
Sent to make him pay

He could barely see
Past thick tears
He didn’t need to see anything
Not in this moment
Of complete surrender

“Look at me, my lady,” he'd said on that first day
In a tone
That would not tolerate
But obedience

She'd done as he'd commanded her

“I have a feeling
You’re not like most of
The other little girls. Hmm?”

He'd smiled a secret smile
One that already knew something about her
That she didn’t know herself

“It’s good to feel pain with your pleasure,” she said now.

“Yes,” he whispered

“Most of the time
You don’t feel
As if you should
Have any pleasure at all
Do you?”

“No,” he said
Twisting his face away from her
How could she know that
About him? Why
Did it feel as though she’d
Brought him before a mob
Disrobed him before a thousand condemning eyes?

He'd gazed at her
On that first day
And said, “You think I should have been kinder.”

She'd clutched her ribs
As though finding it tender to breathe
“He’s in so much pain.”

“What were you doing out there?” he'd asked

“I heard…” she'd begun, squirming
“I heard him crying out.”

“The children’s garden
Is a fair distance from
My guard house,”
Xaviero had said.
“I have put other guards
To the lash before
And never once did any
Curious little girls
Come to watch.”

“It’s not right
That you should feel pleasure
When you’ve hurt people,"

Elysande said now
"Hurt them so very badly.”

Flooded his chest like
A sucker punch
He gasped

“Make no mistake, my dear one,” she said

He pulled hard
At his wrists and ankles
But cuffs held him fast
“You are going to suffer
As long as I am here to make you suffer.”

He shook his head from side to side

“And every time I make you suffer
A little more of that darkness
Is going to come to the surface
Where I can see it.”

“Please don’t,” he said
Turning away from her gaze
Which burned him

“Tell me what you’ve got buried
So deeply inside you.
You know what it is.”

A surge of rage
Coiled through him
He pulled hard
On the wrist cuffs
Raising up to look her in the face

“The proof, you mean?
The proof of my sins?
Oh, I’ve got enough of those
I’ve got enough sins rolling around in here
To keep us busy for a century.”

“Maybe they’ve heard it before
And never came close enough,”

Elysande had said on that first day

“Perhaps,” he'd said. “Perhaps.
But I don’t think so.
Most little girls
Don’t have the stomach for
Military justice.”

“I’m not like them,” she'd said.

“I didn’t think you were.”

Was it true, what she said
He wondered now
If he did as she commanded
Would some of that horror
He’d put other men through
Finally leave him be?

He was exhausted
He hummed with joy in his chest
He felt lighter in so many ways
His beloved was cracking him open
She would not be stopped
Whatever she demanded, he must
Give to her

He’d used his rage
On those people he’d tortured
Rage that was fueled
By the realization that
She’d been the wrong age
When he’d finally found her

What I should be telling Nurse,"

He'd said to her on that first day
"Is that her little charge has
For things that little girls
Shouldn’t want to see.”

Elysande had pulled herself
As tall as she could make herself
And looked him in the eye

“You may tell her anything you wish.
She wouldn’t believe you,”
she'd said
In her haughtiest tone

He'd shifted his weight then
Moving smoothly from a crouch
To a kneeling position

“I know exactly
What I’m asking you to do,”
she said now

He shook his head
“You don’t know what I’ve
Done to people, Elysande.”

“I’m beginning to
Get the idea.”
He gasped
When she took his face
In her hands
Forced him to look
Into her eyes
With the merest tug

“You knew about me
From that very first day
In the barracks yard."

He winced
As if she’d struck him

“Well, you weren’t the only one.
I knew something about you, too.
I didn’t know what to make of it.”

He tried to shake his head, but
She wouldn’t let him
She squeezed his face harder
His eyes grew large with dread

“Nurse has already discovered things
About you, hasn’t she, my lady?”

He'd asked on that first day
He'd bowed his head
As though he were her servant
And not a man who commanded a garrison
“She once suspected
There was something about you
But it frightened her
And – dear thing – she loved you,
Didn’t she?
Didn’t want her sweet little darling
To be taken away.”

“Who would take me away?”
She'd blurted out.

“I won’t lie to you, lady.
Powerful people
Would take you away.
Have you put to death.”

Tears had welled and shimmered
In her eyes
Xaviero had reached his finger
To wipe them from her cheeks
He'd opened his arms
She'd all but leaped into them

His body now trembled
Trembled with the knowledge
That it was finally over
There was to be no more waiting

“I think it’s safest
That we keep this to ourselves,"

He'd said on that first day
Cradling her into his shoulder

“How do you know about me?”
She'd asked finally
She'd pushed back
So she could gaze into his eyes

“I’ve been different, too,” he'd said
“In my way.”


He'd nodded

“And now?”

Now she smiled at him
So sweetly
She was like an angel
An angel of vengeance
Sent to make him pay

He could barely see
Past thick tears
He didn’t need to see anything
Not in this moment
Of complete surrender

“The proof, you mean?
The proof of my sins?
Oh, I’ve got enough of those
I’ve got enough sins rolling around in here
To keep us busy for a century.”

© Julia Smith, Nov. 14, 2010

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Detail from Roman Centurian, Legio XX, 1st Century AD by Chris Collingwood

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 174 - No Courage Left For the Next Time

This poem was written during the 3:15 Experiment in August.

It's a backstory poem for my falconer character, Richolf, who is featured in my serialized Saturday fiction. I was just brainstorming his storyline over the weekend at my annual real-life writer's retreat at White Point Beach, Nova Scotia.

I've based him on Scottish-Peruvian actor Henry Ian Cusick.

No Courage Left For the Next Time

Cowering in ceaseless dark
He didn't know what was worse
The waiting
The knowledge there was no more waiting
The tiny flame of hope
The hopelessness
The weight of iron on his wrists
The moment of weightlessness
The sound of their footsteps coming for him
The silence of solitary
Were they coming with food?
Would they drag him down the corridor?
Would they break something?
Would he beg them to stop?
He didn't know what was worse
The memory of his cries, his screams
Or the knowledge there were more lurking inside of him
It was hard to say
Hard to know what was worse
It was all worse
He could see no way out
There was no courage left
For the next time he heard their footsteps
For the next time the keys clicked in the lock
But he was so hungry
So thirsty
Maybe he heard something
Maybe they would bring him something
He had to ride the turbulent hope and dread
He had no choice
The iron pressed down on his wrists
The cold seeped up from the stones
The bruises ached from the last time
His stomach growled
He hoped they arrived soon
He hoped he never saw them again
He couldn't take much more
How long did it take to go mad?
Or was it already too late?

© Julia Smith, Aug. 9, 2010

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 173 - There For the Taking

This poem was written during the 3:15 Experiment in August.

There For the Taking

New day
New blade of grass
New whisker

I'll mow

New dawn
New wave breaking ashore
I'll stand
As it washes over
I'll trust

© Julia Smith, Aug. 3, 2010

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 172 - The Things That Aren't Things

This poem was written during the 3:15 Experiment in August.

The Things That Aren't Things

Things in my room
Castles and Palaces of Europe
Schloss Neushwanstein cookie tin
A red McFarlane dragon figurine
With its crystal ball in its talons

Things in my room
A framed collage of The Arts, signed by the photographer
A framed Taming of the Shrew ballet poster signed by the featured dancer
A dry-mounted poster for my 4th year film screening, including 'Exposed Film' tape to secure the date & time of screening

Things in my room
A pile of photocopied pictures featuring the actor-muses for my fictional heroes from last year's writing retreat
The 'Bravo!' card featuring a single pink rose that Brad gave me when I finished my very first NaNoWriMo
A pile of paperbacks written by fellow members of my writer's group

Things in my room
Two pairs of slippers, one fuschia, one black
An outdated computer tower & monitor
A pile of my dog's stuffed toys she's stashed under the bureau

Things in my room
A pile of programs from special National Ballet of Canada performances
An old cassette tape of my dad talking
Two spiral notebooks containing family stories I've collected

Things in my room

© Julia Smith, Aug. 22, 2010

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 171 - Further In and Around the Corner

This poem was written during the 3:15 Experiment in August.

Further In and Around the Corner

Maybe not right now
But soon
Maybe not on my tongue
But I can taste it

Perhaps the vision is too
Misty to grasp in my hands
Perhaps the words are muffled
Drawing me further in and around the corner

Maybe the climb is still steep
But at least I have those mountaineering clips
Perhaps I run out of day before I run out of done
This journey becomes more soothing, revealings its own joys, its own insights

© Julia Smith, Aug. 27, 2010

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 170 - Defining Moment #2

This backstory poem for Richolf, my falconer character who appears in my Saturday serialized fiction, was written during the 3:15 Experiment in August.

Defining Moment #2

Delicious glances as they wove between the other dancers
Three sword points levelled at his face
The searing bite of the blade upon his brow

His invitation to the soiree
Had been heartfelt
By a grateful noble
One of the hunters who
Wanted to reciprocate
The falconer's hospitality

"Go on, go on"
His master had urged
Declining the offer himself
A twinkle in his eye

So many beautiful girls
So many intoxicating ladies
Richolf danced with them all
Smiled at them all
Clasped her hand
Brushed his lips upon her knuckles
Locked gazes
Felt the heat

Until he was called outside
Surrounded and threatened
In the chill night air
The sweat from the party
Turning to the sweat of fear

He'd danced with the wrong girl
He didn't even know which one
Had inspired these three sword points
To level at his face

A kick from behind
His cry hanging in the night air
The distant sounds of the soiree
His heart beating as he realized
All the moments of his life
Would end in this dusty moment

But the hands which held him
Only meant for the sword to
Kiss his brow
A reminder for life
Not to mix his lowly breed
With that of one born to the blood

They left him
Laying in the dirt
Dripping red between his fingers
That still held the thrill
Of all those girlish hands
Those womanly sighs

© Julia Smith, Aug. 25, 2010

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 169 - Drawing You In

This poem was written during the 3:15 Experiment last month, just after my sister's second wedding shower, hosted by her new family-in-law.

Drawing You In

Your in-two-weeks sister-in-law
Had tears sparkling in her eyes
As you held up the
Cooking apron

All the women
In your new family
Have a handmade apron

With her thread
She draws you in
With her stitches
She binds you to her
And to all of them
Even before you say

"I do"

© Julia Smith, Aug. 30, 2010

My sister with her husband and his brothers and sisters. The sister who made the apron is second from left.

There will be lots of wedding pix for Thursday Thirteen - never fear!

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!