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

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