Canto XI: Retreat
I waited there until at last they fled,
and sat there in the gloom of night advanced.
The scurries of the wolves dissolved on wind
and I was left alone in all my thoughts,
or rather I should say my lack of thoughts,
for all that sight had brought about was sense:
I heard the hiss of wind in serpent tones
and felt the coarse windís scale upon my skin.
I smelled the iron scent of red on earth
or maybe of the blood that stained my clothes.
Which was the source was indeterminable.
When shaking had retreated somewhat,
(awareness only stretched as far as flesh)
I gathered thoughts as sparse as pennies loose
within the pocket of a pauperís coat.
To step upon this cursed alter seemed
as far removed a thought as possible;
I, too, would never deign to tread on sea.
Instead I stumbled back into the gloom,
retreating more by feel than conscious thought
and falling back to camp in semi-dream,
removed my battered clothing, red with blood
and cast them to the corner of my tent.
I laid within the bed and sweat and shook,
each breath an effort through the sobs that came
in gradients like labor pains which mount
in little increments to dreadful sum:
the horror I had born, a blinding twinge.
Steadying my breath at last in time,
the ache and strain of day caught up with me.
I fell asleep in sweat and blood and tears.