Canto XIII: Warning Signs
The drunkard sat, fist clutching still his god,
the thousands he had seemed to empty there
had only small effect, such was the depth
of his indulgence that a single draught
had little hold on him alone. He sat,
his eyes, dull, cocked, through greatest strain
would fix on her at times to wander off
mere moments later-- so the evening wore.
The bar which housed them long ago had peaked,
and now was thinning, early, though it was.
Fe watched, gone numb herself, beyond her norm.
He slowly writhed within his chair, it seemed
the slightest wind or breath could topple him.
and yet despite his unresponsive ear,
she spoke yet more to him, perhaps unheard:
Are you still in there listening to me?
Perhaps you haven't heard a word of this.
and I am wasting time that better would
be spent in preparation for our flight.
But I will finish this that I began.
My understanding of my fault still grows,
the more that I recount the tale complete.
I feel it flower deep within my breast,
and in the stomach pit where he was gored.
The telling of it flares the nerves in pain
the burn is satisfaction strange to feel.
so drink on, tippler, counterfeit your care
as I stoke your addiction-- One more here!
The drunkard swayed his thanks, and Fe went on:
I rose at dawn, as I had trained myself,
the sweat betraying stress in broken sleep.
In mindless haze, I went about the tasks
of striking camp and packing for the trek.
I could not think of food, my gut a rock,
the horrors of the night still fresh in mind.
With wolves laid on, the pack was heavier
than it had seemed before, and I resolved
to come back for the things he carried out.
Just as, at times, the world seems unaware
of all the monstrous acts of heinous men
and blithely goes about its happy course,
and we are left to feel the dissonance
of awful knowledge in the face of it,
so now had nature spread her bounty forth,
vulgarity as only she can show,
the sex of life in early springtimeís bud,
the hum of life awakening from the depths,
sun giving strength to frigid bones which yearn,
for sweet relief in summerís haughty bloom.
And I, for all my shame could feel no warmth,
or joy in mud which preached the winterís end.
How alien it seemed to see that joy,
the ignorance of Eden there without
the weight of Adam or of Eveís conceit.
It all was off in ways I canít describe:
The buzzing of the bees at awkward tones
which surely had been as they were before.
The flitting of the birds in dawdling path
when instinct should have shown the straightest path.
And soon I knew springís ignorance was feigned:
It put on blissful airs to mock my state,
as soon my bleak discovery confirmed.
There, lying in the mud beside my path,
not yet on beaten road, in hidden knoll
I spotted there a man I did not know,
which several daysí decay revealed had had
the white plague- so where the markings left upon
his skin where days before his death had been
no doubt the sight of angry boil, since burst.
The vision struck me, stayed me in my tracks.
The face that it conveyed was wracked in pain,
a brutal photograph of dwingling light,
the final desperation of us all.
I marveled at the universe, so cruel
hell bent to stamp out every precious light
that we ignite against its shadow-reign.
Such is the nature of our constant plight.
The fool was I to dream we might escape.
I was not spared this long to loose my guard
and let the darkness in to smother us,
my sweetest Loren, trusting motherís strength,
or tireless Geddi, trusting, too, my will.
These had my weakness failed in thought and deed,
in hope, adultery, and wasted time.
And what did this discovery foretell?
The pestilence had not been seen for months,
and never in this wood as I recalled.
No traveller, struck with plague, could wander long,
before succumbing to the violent heaves
that so acutely came upon the sick.
I did not know this man, but instinct screamed
that he was from the inner village ring.
And here, upon this mutual hunting ground!
The Wall would hold The Final Overlook
at length enough to stop the refugees
from getting out-- but what of us within?
The worry pushed the throbbing pain away
which rang inside my head like funeral bells.
I pushed along my lonely garden path,
dizzy of the choices yet to make.