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Arachne. No. 3

Cherry Lockett

Cherry Lockett


Far in the north a maiden lies,
Deep in the ice her flesh like pearl
Burns through the still blue crevices,
Binding the brittle region round
With hidden warmth.

She lies asleep,
And all the waste bends o'er head.
Crusted with rime the frozen trees
Lean down their boughs. The tortured stone
Heaves up the weight of ice and snow,
While gelid waters underground
Pulse through the night without a sound.

But twice within a thousand years
The link-mailed feet of paladins
Rang through those caves of singing stone,
The crisp snow churned about their heels,
Their nimble blades chipped at the ice,
With no man bold to speak a word,
Only the ringing metal cried,
Splintered upon the air and died.
Then whiteness filled their purblind eyes,
And out they stumbled, half-alive,
The jealous waste caught at their breath,
Rolled in the mighty gusts of cold,
Leaving the desert to its love.

So let this endless time conspire
To fold my love in its embrace.

page 14

Prayer for a Wanderer

Father, your child is abroad;
Heaven knows what prayers he is singing
In the desolate streets;
Heaven knows where he is going,
Even the hour of his coming,
And so does he.
But Father, it is a long journey;
Let him pause at the darkened alleys,
Guide him in even ways,
Protect him from men and demons.

When the bravos lift up the bar
And straggle into the night,
Well-girt, nimble and able,
Their daggers under their hands,
Red gold bulging their pouches,
Be ready at hand, O Lord,
Tumble them into the Arno,
That he may pass over unharmed,
Seeing the stars in the water.

When the mohocks whoop and call,
Leaping in mid-career,
Twisting the jewelled cane
To wrench out the vandal blade,
Then may his lighted face
Strike all their hearts to stone,
So that they jostle him lightly,
And leave him alone.

Father, your child is abroad;
When the beggars, the worst of all,
The tapping and creeping tribe,
Come swarming across the cobbles
And rattle their cups by his knees,
Send Thy still hosts to his side,
That his charity may be pure,
Then as they cringe in shame,
Behold how undismayed
He sleeps with the coming of dawn.