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Canto IV: The Hunt

Soon thereafter camps were closed for good,
and all of us, the poor, expelled into
The Black Valley. The intervening years
put time and distance in between we two,
toiling, separate, for our families.
We met again by chance years later when,
on hunt, our villages had joined our best.
Hardened by the constant fight to breathe
the man before me bore a small resemblance
To the scrawny child planted in the earth,
and I was much the same. The time and plight
had withered from my limb all happy green.
By contrast, his was as a winter branch,
the calloused corpse hid optimistic life.
And yet, unspoken, hidden in the dirt
our common roots connected as before
and quickly we uncovered how we might
together do what neither might alone.
Though I was sure the better of we two,
our history took part in every hunt:
musicians worn to each the other know
the silent, deep connection I invoke.
From there we two for greater gain did hunt,
though also for the momentary stay
our friendship gave us from the dismal strain
of living day by day in hunger-pain
and under the duress white plague imposed.
On one such mission was my strife begun.

We chased a boar through woods into the thick,
followed close behind, its tracks observed
And calculated our approach to claim
our prize with safety. We quietly approached,
the swine prevented from escape, cornered in
a natural enclosure in the rock.
Perhaps he sensed a moment I did not,
an opportunity to quickly spend the beast--
Hul lashed out, despite what we had planned
and stumbling, warned the boar of our approach,
which screamed its anger, charging all its wrath
to gore in vengeance its assailant, Hul.

Just as the warbler senses wild wind approach
so I before the moment was struck with sight
and moved, unthinking, ‘gainst the swell of time
and pulled the sweet impulsive fool from death,
and in the moment, dealing fast the blow
improvisation deadly, spilling with
a gush the gore and life of that damned pig.
It staggered, struggling as we reclaimed
our footing, finished it with haste as one.
Then at last were we allowed a breath,
the wearing off of cortisol, the rush,
and in their wake no thanks were said
the pleasantry, our history had long
since cursed from our unsaid accord
as wasted breath, in action only was
the value in a friendly gesture.
Then sitting, we began to look around,
and realized the nature of that place.
The boar, it seemed, was fleeing to a cave--
A tiny opening where we, mistaken,
Had only seen the swine’s impediment.
The realization took us both at once:
That here, this hidden grotto might provide
more food than this lone swine was like to give.
Perhaps unspoken gratitude moved him,
but Hul got down, bent beneath the thicket
that covered well the hole, a shrewd disguise,
and disappeared inside, it seems, as he
would always have the strangest skill to do.
For half an hour I awaited him,
and wondered what bizarre destruction met
him in that hole. And in the time tied up
the boar and polished off my weapons clean.
I did not even hear him reemerge!
He stood in silence by the opening
and startled me when I at length first saw
his dirty figure, silent, staring down.
Approaching, slow, I spoke in gentle tones:


What took you all that time? Why keep your peace?
What horror did you find down in that dirt?

Then looking up, he spoke, eyes full of fear:

There was no horror. It was beautiful.
hgnichols
Written by hgnichols (Harry Nichols)
Published
Author's Note
Part 4 of my epic! I should come up with a name for it.
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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