Monday, 19 November 2007

The Magic Lake


When I was young and strong
the old man looked me over
His younger wife the second
had laboured long inside her yurt
to birth a child to be his heir
Her child her womanhood all gone
she died in moaning loss

But he would carry on his line
His strength along the plain when young
was legendary to our tribe
His wisdom in the fruit of age
must pass along the trodden way
- where every child of his had died -
and live to take his right-won place

When I was young and strong
the old man took me to his silent yurt
- set off a little way from all the rest -
and spoke of swans along The Magic Lake
and where our sons would wander
in their youthful carelessness
as seasons changed from ice to flowers

They grew to carry on his line
two sons of mine to keep him living
and three small daughters just like him
The youngest one who smiled at birth
lived just one icy autumn in this life
but four still grew and laughed and tumbled
learned to ride and tell the stories to each other

When I was young and strong
the old man found the best of places
sheltered in the hardest winters
Gentle to his timid daughter
firm and hard to strengthen up his sons
and so indulgent that our youngest
never needed tears nor favours

Kon and Pek - so like each other -
followed herds and killed our meat
astride their horses from my skirt-lap
Kana stayed beside me in the yurt
but Tarsa rode behind her father
Wilder yet than both her brothers
Tarsa stole his company

When I was young and strong
the old man honoured me with children
- wealth of every roaming tribe
This life of times and seasons travels
Now we leave him in the ground
where once - and now forever -
he has company to mark his time

My Tarsa - wilder than her brothers -
dressed in flames of silk from China
died in grief as he lay dying
Lying near the three strong horses
her thin body keeps a vigil
as her grief had made her ready
for his company for ever

When I was young and strong
the old man traded for a camel
the grivna which my Tarsa wears
- leopard-headed either end - for me
It seemed to suit her bravery
And now I leave it with the casket
near the mirror she can look inside

When her other life continues
she will use the precious needle
make a fiery silken dress
to spangle in the golden plates
we sewed across her sunset-shroud
and wake her father and his horses
to ride across The Magic Lake

When I was young and strong
the old man seemed to me too old
but now my hair is grey in grief
there is no place above the ground
except to see my sons move on
my Kana in her marriage yurt
and look to find The Magic Lake

copyright 1997 Charlotte Peters Rock
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