Poetry: The Head (Volume 1)

He doesn’t know if he’s ready, but he has his assignment and the time is now,

the moment for man-making is, stepping into the air holding pack and saber,

no fellowship partner or dog, he is all alone in the night heavy with sweat,

the contract is a death to bring, he must find a wolf and claim its head as his,

all of his friends have done it, if he wants a wife he needs to prove worthy,

dodging rocks and hurdling logs, in the distance he sees a torchlight,

he mouths a curse and spits thick, turning around escaping into darkness,

fires frighten wolves to vanishing, he knows from his father’s words,

“as darkness spreads all around, teeth fill in the space between trees,

watch yourself with your feelings, they are all you will have in the dark.”

 

Seeming to have direction, he loped from the flame, to grow his length from light,

as the fire faded from view, he groped the stillness, willing his thoughts to settle,

his eyelids shut around him, he achieved silence, but someone struck a flint,

a dim light through the brush, he this time ran for, his knife out and face afire,

whoever they are he thought, he would kill them, finally he would be a man,

he knew society would wonder, they would ask, “where is your trophy head?”

and he would respond simply, “I cleaved but one,” hanging a soul from a chain,

sneaking quiet near the light, he was almost to it, suddenly the flame snuffed,

and thus he was alone again, he whirled about, stabbing his blade in the air,

when four torches circled him, he stumbled feebly, he felt the cold ground rise,

“did you bring enough coin?”

 

This new voice sounded thick and travelled by experience and rum,

there were four men holding torches emerging from the wood,

each held a fire to his right and dangled a wolf’s head to his left,

a voice slid through the night like warm poison syrup,

“Raise your silver slow, boy,”

the salesman spoke an offer that cut the boy’s pride at an artery,

“The price is twenty for the head alone and seventy for the full pelt,”

“I carry no silver tonight, man,”

the boy holding his knife spoke with a dumb and haughty pride,

“My blade carries a death to the unholy but I’ve brought no coin,”

“You’re just a fool then, kid”

the salesman spoke on spewing a rueful mockery and contempt,

“Go with your god but when you fail you will search for my torch,”

“I am a righteous fool, sir”

the boy took this talk for a verbal joust and leveled his lance high,

“And if I find your torch I promise that you will die that night,”

 

The torchbearers riotous laughing, they fell as pins tipped over,

“I too was once a child,” came a voice behind him, “I was stupid,”

a pain swept through his knees, he was knocked down looking up,

“this is a lesson learnt,” the boy saw dark shapes, “learn it well,”

weighted leather fell with a thud, the blackest night shot through

the boy was in a red mist hanging from a string,

acid rain melting him down,

to nothing,

shink like a descabbard blade,

daytime comes in a great wave that heats his eyes,

the boy is a furious painful hate, directed at himself completely,

“You are like a soft egg,” cursing the reflecting pool, “a dead fool,”

he held his knife in suicide posture, ready to sever his own arteries.

 

“Stop!” a voice burst from the sky, “you’re not serious, you can’t be,”

“Idiot!” another came from behind, “an idiot with heart and derring-doo,”

The salesmen emerged, stalking slow and grinning deeply at the boy,

only a pair of them stood, Jackal and Horshoe with two sinister smiles,

“chance” said Jackal with a start, “or divine providence some would call,”

“yeah,” and Horshoe was giggling, “it’s the lucky day they would say,”

The boy sat on a log, making scales and seeing what options are best,

and dawn shone bright, the world is a game with ease of advantage,

 

Competition, hope and greed, they taught, or would,

“if today be my first lesson I will sop it and smile,”

the boy knelt, palms upturn, mind opened, wanting,

“I drop to knees and supplicate myself completely,”

Jackal cackled, and there was no other word for it,

his teeth sounded like knives, “that’s dangerous,”

moving like smoke he continued, “do you know?”

“he knows,” Horshoe contended, “sure he does,”

clapping the boy’s shoulder, lifting him skyward,

“don’t you?”

Poetry: The Head (Volume 1)

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