Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Poem of the Day: “Fault” by Mary Soon Lee, Frequent Contributor

Mary Soon Lee

Seventy-eight men--

     King Xau lay still,
     eyes closed.

Seventy-eight men.
Seventy-six of them farmers
or farmhands. Two soldiers.

     Xau lay still,
     trying not to disturb Khyert,
     once his stableboy,
     now valet, aide, groom,
     sleeping on a mat by the door.

Seventy-eight men.
Burnt. Stabbed. Mutilated.
To provoke Xau to war.
Seventy-eight deaths to start a war
that might kill tens of thousands.

     Xau's throat dry.
     He lay still.
     Forced himself to relax his muscles.

No good options.
To go to war in the bitter heart of winter,
try to maintain a supply line
despite snow and ice.
Or to stay put
as if nothing had happened,
perhaps persuade the other farmers to evacuate,
to follow their children to the towns.
Or to retaliate in kind:
to raid Donal's farms,
order his soldiers to burn Donal's farmers--

     Xau sat up.
     Reached for the water. Drank.

     Khyert stood, came over.
     "Can I get you anything?"
     "No. Thank you.
     Get some rest if you can."

No good options,
but he'd chosen anyhow.
Tomorrow he would lead his army
to the Muir river to take out the bridges--

     "It's not your fault."
     Khyert's voice quiet, diffident,
     worried about him,
     but all this was, in the end,
     Xau's fault.

Believing he could stop a war
that had continued,
overtly or surreptitiously,
for the past three hundred years--

     Khyert still standing there,
     watching him.
     "Try to rest," said Xau, again.

     But Khyert sat,
     cross-legged, by Xau's bed.
     Looked down at the floor.
     Sang, very soft,
     too quiet for the guards
     stationed outside the door to hear,
     a shepherd's song about the greening trees,
     the lambing ewes.

     Xau closed his eyes.

Poet's Notes:  This is part of The Sign of the Dragon, my epic fantasy in verse. It is one of several poems about the friendship between King Xau and Khyert, a friendship that began when Khyert was a stable boy and Xau was the youngest and least important of four princes. More poems from The Sign of the Dragon may be read at www.thesignofthedragon.com.

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