Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Solstice" by Mary Soon Lee, Frequent Contributor

Mary Soon Lee

Their wedding,
hastily arranged,
hastily performed,
took place in the courtyard
where the bride,
one week earlier,
had begged
that the groom
be executed.

Four guests,
three officials,
eighteen guards.
No musicians,
no attendants,
no dancing, no feast, no kiss.

Then a twelve-day ride
to the burnt ruins of Harmouth,
the marriage unconsummated,
and Mei (the bride) appalled
by the groom's (Connol's)
lackluster horsemanship.

At Harmouth,
winter drawing in,
Connol spent his days
out in the frost,
planning the reconstruction of the town;
came back each day, past dark,
to his cold bride,
the fire of her past
an open book through which he leafed
(the hundred passions, tantrums, generosities
of her privileged, protected youth) --
all quenched now,

Mei married him
out of duty.
She ran the house for him
out of duty.
She offered her body to him
out of duty.

He used her body
out of duty,
to beget sons,
he who had lusted for each inch
of her flesh:
the soft inside of her elbows,
her earlobes, fingers, buttocks, breasts,
areolae, nipples, neck, knees, navel,
but his lust lost
in the cold wasteland
of her disdain.

On the shortest day,
the longest night,
Connol handed her sheepskin boots,
a sheepskin coat
(she who had come to him in silk
embroidered in gold and scarlet),
led her down to the deep harbor,
the fishing boats rocking
on the dark water,
the fishermen standing
on the stone quay.

Connol and the fishermen
and the handful of other townspeople
and every farmer within a day's walk
and the two dozen soldiers under Connol's command
sang the sun back,
as it had been sung back in Harmouth
each winter solstice
since the first stone
was laid in the harbor wall.

No musical instruments, no dancing, no feast;
only the voices raised,
over and over,
in chorus and chant,
canon, counterpoint, call-and-response,
and, twice, Connol sang
the long solos
in his rusty baritone.

Mei, listening,
forgot the smell
of fish and sweat and smoke and salt,
forgot how cold her nose was.
There, in the dark,
as she sang, softly, unobtrusively,
the words as she learned them.

Poet's Notes: This is part of The Sign of the Dragon, my epic fantasy in verse. This poem belongs to a thread about Mei, King Xau's sister. The poems about Mei and Connol have fairytale elements, but their story doesn't unfold in the traditional way. Mei never falls in love with Connol. There is no happy-every-after ending, only, for a time, a friendship. More poems from The Sign of the Dragon may be read at

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