Mary Soon Lee
As they carried Prince Connol's shrouded body
down to the moonlit harbor,
the fishermen and the soldiers sang.
Mei, waiting in the largest fishing boat,
neither wailed nor wept for her husband.
The men sang Connol's dirge, softly at first,
as they placed his body
in a wicker coracle within the large boat.
Mei, pregnant, queasy, gagged on the
mingled smells of myrrh, mackerel, decay.
Six men rowed her to sea, singing the dirge
in time to the stroke,
the fleet of fishing boats following.
Mei blinked away sea spray,
not tears. She hadn't loved Connol.
The men rowed, their voices rising
the further out they went,
the song echoed by the men in the other boats.
Mei had scorned Connol as a barbarian:
insolent, insulting, insufferable.
The men stopped. Stopped singing.
One man handed Mei a flaming torch.
Slowly Connol's patience, his kindness,
had crept in upon Mei.
Wind, water against the hull, no voices
as they lowered the coracle
into the waves and rowed clear.
Mei tossed the torch down on Connol.
The flame caught on his shroud.
All the men on all the boats
turned then to Mei,
and she sang, clear-voiced,
not the funeral dirge, but a lullaby,
not in Connol's language, but her own,
as she watched the fire burn out.
Poet's Notes: This is part of The Sign of the Dragon, my epic fantasy in verse. It is the final poem of a sequence that starts out like a fairy tale romance: the beautiful princess spurns the coarse barbarian who falls in love with her. However, the romance does not take the traditional path. They do marry but do not live happily ever after. Mei slowly comes to like Connol but not to love him, and he dies less than a year after their first meeting. More poems (many of them less tragic!) from The Sign of the Dragon may be read at www.thesignofthedragon.com.