Canto VI: Onierophobia
Beside the fire we had made, we both
let forth the common thought we had.
The first to find the words to speak was Hul:
We could live in peace and never need,
our families subsisting off the land,
away and safe from all these awful things
and waiting for the white plague’s course to run.
With just a little planting this here bank
could easily bear fruit in little time-
I think a season might be all we’d need,
then carefully at first we could begin
to ration out the crop which then would grow.
He took, then, the bottle we both drank
of potent spirit which I always brought
to ease the muscle-ache that came from chase
and foraging for days and days on end.
Medicinal, though I had always thought,
it seemed tonight a celebration draught.
His lips given to the act of hearty drink
I recognized my turn to speak my mind:
We could indeed do everything you say.
I cannot let myself believe the gift;
There never is a thing unearned in life.
We should instead be skeptical of this:
We are the mice which skit around a feast
found, unexpected, in a fatal trap.
To which sweet Hul made typical reply:
Still so hard against our lucky turn?
What are the odds our plight might never end?
Or end at least in its intensity?
Although we’d know great ease compared to now,
the upkeep of this place would be no breeze.
You say we should suspect a gift unearned,
but haven’t we, through all our toil bought
the sweet reprieve this place would surely give?
If this became our home and haven we
could let a generation pass without,
maybe more. Our children’s young--
my daughter’s and your son’s perhaps--
would venture out to see how things had passed,
and safely plant new seeds of life beyond.
And mulling all this over, sweet relief,
began to well within my eyes, the sign
that Hul’s daydream, despite my prudence, took,
had grafted surely; implantation blood.
I took the bottle back and quaffed again,
a deeper drink than caution said was fair.
Hul, his hope and vision making bright
the face which I had known since childhood,
the rarest constant I had known in life;
He shined now, and seemed somehow transformed
in gloom surrounding, save the firelight.
I longed to feel the levity of hope,
admired it within Hul’s hardened bones,
and took it in beneath the cover of
a silence as I mulled his wild ideas.
And soon enough the spirit was upon me
loosening my jaw to speak strange heart
unknown to me, myself inclined to doubt.
I nudged beside him, caught up in the swell
of prospect. Oh, the damned monstrosity
of hope which comes upon you just to leave!
Our slackened pose, in celebration drink
provided harbor, each our wayward ships.
I opened up a mouth with sluggish tongue:
We will pursue this wild hope of yours--
I only had begun my thought when he,
his interrupting tongue suppressed my own.
Just as the body can be killed piecemeal
undone by minor ailments numerous,
so was my judgement murdered by the sway
of liquor, hope, and beauty in accord.
The thought of my beloved son and spouse
did not preserve me in the wild moment found.
For this was mine, which rarely would I grant
myself, devoted as I was to serve my kin.
And with this weakened flesh did I consume
Him underneath the boughs which bore our dreams.