Monday, 19 November 2007

Frozen Princess


(Put on site for Christie Dickason)

Here on the highest steppe
Here where the mountains rise
Here in the icy wind
Here here we wander

My father rode the treeless plains
two thousand years and more before you came
to scour my grave and those around me
digging out my coffin made of log
from deep inside the Pazyryk mounds
Scattered low across the Altai steppe
at Ukok carved into the permafrost

You found my wooden salvers
bearing horse meat and the mutton
still uneaten in my chamber
Disturbed my chestnut horses
from their sentinel without my door
examining in high excitement
the single blow that felled
my favoured into guarding me
the felted saddle covers
the loyalty of centuries

You call me Frozen Princess
but that phrase can not describe
my warmth in living
The years I rode across the plains
plaits streaming out behind my surging progress
following trails my ancestors laid down
and my descendants followed

Before I died - approaching middle age -
I knew the warmth of babies suckled
-the ice of babies dying -
watched my daughter learn to walk and run
and dressed my charming rough-haired son
in finest wool and skins so supple
he was prouder than his father
as he followed in his hunting

Around the cooking fires
older women chattered
as they worked the tattoo patterns
into arms and legs
remembering the shapes their mother taught them
Passing on the knowledge
of a griffin or an antler-deer
- a snake to wrap around the wrist

I tattooed my younger son before he died
my older son before he rode away
my daughter in the antler pattern
which my mother gave me

She showed me how to work in leather
how to make the felted lions
and the richest birds
to hang inside her funeral chamber
the swans we set to guard my son in his
the wooden head-dress which you found
on me when you let in the light

copyright 1997 Charlotte Peters Rock

(This is the performance piece of which I spoke. The first verse is sung - the rest is 'declaimed'. Charlotte)

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