Monday, 19 November 2007

The Wiser Man


Along the camel lines
where horses with their screwed up nostrils
will not smell and be disturbed
by carriers of the steppe
the certain-footed ones which never stumble
the ones which starved of water
still plod on until the spring is reached
I live

Forty seasons on the highest steppe
- or a hundred - it is all the same
I have tended first the horses
then the camels which will keep me warm
serve me with their milk and meat
their skins to make my shelter when the howling winds
sear the bones of lesser men
and their delicate horses

My mother was the favoured of the gods
before this woman which we honour
and the one who came before her time had died
Her tales continued through the winter nights
and under stars we touched in summer pasture
She bequeathed the mantle which I carry
the way to show how honour must be done
how chambers hollowed from the thawing ground
in summer when the nesting birds call loud
can carry to the land beyond
the living newly needing passage

They send the woman to consult me
She What does she know
I can tell her of the depth which must be dug
how to line in interlocking flattened wood
the walls to keep the dead one clear of earth
which horses must be felled
and how to put them facing east
outside her chamber door

I can tell how many days the feasting must
be taken by the storytelling
and when to make the feast for her
to take upon her longest journey
how to lay her on her side
her tallest head-dress fitted into time
and mirrors decorated by her emblem
placed beside her in due reverence

After many days of feasting
when the horses all lie ready
when the stories all include
her living and her dying
I can supervise the final reverence
how to seal the coffin lid with copper nails
to put the roof in place
and where to stack the stones
which show her final resting
keep the wolves outsideclaim this land as hers

copyright 1997 Charlotte Peters Rock

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