For Celena. Always magical.
There was an old courthouse where I slept
on a bench beneath the apple trees
that lined the great stone paths
to meet our king
who sat highest in the court
the Judge of Judges
reporting on the sins of men
and the adulterous women.
Wind rustled the leaves, and new apple blossoms cast a soft scent through the air. The shades of a hundred leaves fell like fingerprints atop the young woman curled on the bench, her knees drawn in toward her heart, her hands held tight as though caught in prayer. A butterfly with yellow and black wings alighted on her nose, and stirred from her slumber, she rose as it waited.
How soft shone your wings in the sunlight
that bit of black desire
strewn through bright ensembles
Should the fur along your body
feel as smooth as silk
or should the tips of all your talons
sting as a lover’s lost kiss
pressed upon pursed lips?
The butterfly flew away, and Lucy watched as it went, rising and falling before rising higher again. Soon it was out of sight, and she sat with her hands clutching the bench’s edge.
“You there,” called a voice, and Lucy turned to see two men approaching: They were tall and built like boulders. The first had yellow hair as though distilled from the rising sun, and the latter’s was as dark as night. As they approached closer, Lucy saw they wore the badge of Five Wings and Four Faces, the highest of all enforcers that roamed the land outside the courthouse.
“Were you here all night?” the first said, revealing himself as the one who had called out before.
Lucy, frowning, nodded. They had dark boots on. The toes looked especially frightful.
“Don’t you know it’s a crime to sleep on public benches,” said the second.
“But why would they be here if not to use? And isn’t sleep the least of all harms anyone could inflict upon a public bench?”
“Besides the point,” said the first. “Go home tonight, else we’ll have to take you in tomorrow.”
Lucy looked up, wished to speak, but there were no words. Instead she nodded, stood up slowly, resisted brushing the bits of dust from her clothing, and walked away.
What would you have me for
but a trinket lost in the park
wherefore your whispers linger
what law do you uphold?
Is not freedom with restriction
but imprisonment with windows?
Why should I blame him
that he upholds the law
if the law is his right hand
and his left holds his shaft
for pleasure unto himself
and pain unto others
is that not his right
his wings granted
set a watchman
upon the poor
They lie prone upon benches
and in piles of dirt
when they rise on weathered knees
their tongues lull outward
and lap the air for a taste of his salt
the only drink to satiate their thirst
for a law that was never theirs.
Lucy lingered in a high place, peering out over the world that sprawled below. There were great cities where the rich grew richer and the poor beneath them succumbed to greater poverty or death, whichever proved cheaper for those on top. Smaller towns seemed kind in juxtaposition, but still children were raped and schoolkids were called dumb and the other among them, cast out.
For a time she had felt the one to blame. Her cries for dignity against the highest judge, her disgust at the inequities he ordained, said his highest officers, had made her a temptress and a devil. She had once looked upon them as equals, each fighting for the same greater good, and when they set her aside, the shame that came from their rejection had nearly drowned her.
Now, wisened and tempered by time, she saw no such cause for guilt amongst them: She had seen a different good, but a goodness as profound as theirs, and it pained her that they could not see it. She had not tempted, but inspired; had not misled, but empowered.
You may take my wings
but I shall still fly
for my words are like sweet music
and overflowing cups of wine
for where they touch
there is wonder
and where I am heard
there is uprising.
You may cast us down
as rioters and thieves
but we are the lawful
taking the reigns
of a steed you left starved
in a field as full and green
as our burned and battered hearts
its mouth roped
so it could only watch
as its sustenance withered.
Lie in bed with me
take my hand and feel my breasts
feel that heartbeat
you could not brave to hear
feel the cusp of my neck
and the curl of my lips
and the dimples on my tongue
that crafts these words
you are too afraid to listen to.
The sun was setting. Lucy turned slowly, taking in the horizon, the pockets of color, the trembling clouds, and finally her eyes came to rest upon the courthouse. The trees before it formed a straight and narrow path, too hard to follow without falling off; there were flowers here and there to admire, little animals worth watching, other trails leading to other wonders and benches for respite.
All roads, however, ended here. It was the meeting place of life and death, but in its halls mingled mangled forms of good and evil, righteousness bastardized upon the breaths of falsified believers, admirals of armies decorated in the flags of misplaced hatred. How could the judges decree these crimes trifling issues? Were it not their names being taken in vain?
Lucy cried out and fell to her knees.
I shall blame you for the darkness
but give thanks for your light
I shall blame you for an aching heart
but give thanks for your love
I shall blame you for being branded
but give thanks for the freedom
of being forgotten
and cast aside.