A Tale to Pass the Time

A simple narrative poem I stumbled my way through a few months back, I decided to polish it up recently when I rediscovered it, and post it here. I had in mind old Homeric epics when writing it, though its length is miniscule in comparison.


A Tale to Pass the Time

She came across the road, not at a sign,

But fearless of the swiftly-speeding cars

Ducked in between them, baby at her hip.

Her fearlessness, it shaped her argent eyes

So fiercely did it burn that when I looked

I saw no traces of that other fire

You’ve set your heart upon, my autumn Lord.

To stay the night, she begged, but gave no coin;

The bank’s machine rejected her at once.

The chain motel of mine has patience none

For charity among poor travelers.

Still. For her child, perhaps, and for my bones,

I gave the ancient bargain: take her tale

In payment for my shelter through the night.

Mortals seldom take me at my word,

But cold, dejected, hardly did she pause.

“My tale is short; I’d sell it for an hour.”

Full well you know the ancients bargained not

The length of time to match the length of tale.

And thus I said. And here her tale is given,

In scarce more lines than my preamble here.

“I came from little. Poverty is dull;

It blunts the spirit’s edge upon the world.

But for a little while I was rich.

Rich not in gold, or talent, stock; but love.

And so again I seek her, golden fire.

For brief a summer, ah, we lay entwined!

But like an ember glowing in the night,

The Autumn’s chill descended on her swift.

To Heliopolis, she whispered me,

She must return as all do of her kind.

Not on her living cheek did I then gift

These diamonds flowing freely from my grief,

But I bedecked her sepulcher of ash

Of splendant fineries my sorrow spun.”

In truth, I saw a royal silken thread

Of gilded loss fall trembling from her hand.

Her words left, wandering in memory,

I waited till she found them true again.

“The golden-archéd city gilt in brass,

A fiery heart of worlds; this is my quest:

I’ll tempt from her sweet laughter once again.

Our daughter’s eyes will one day see her face.

There grim in cold Chicago rose the gates

Against the day. I passed through them with ease.

The silver river wended on from there

A tributary of the graven Styx.

A bus connection carried me through grey,

And soon awakening in Denver’s light,

Amid the spine of this small speck of world

I found the second, adamantine gate.

Again I passed, though dearly did I pay;

Sweet memories were dashed upon the ground.

The mighty Sphinx accepted tribute this,

And now I find my steps pass unto here.

Ahead a final Gate is raised: I know

The dearest thing unto my heart is asked.

I fear to dwell upon it, but my tale

Is told in full as payment now to you.”

And so I saw upon her face, in truth

Agreeing with her tale, the phoenix’s scar.

It clung as glowing, effervescent Bronze

Brushed on her spirit like a common paint.

Once dawn broke early, left she with the dew,

To seek the lone and dread Empyreal Gate.

I swear upon this altar stone, my Lord,

Since then, I never saw her like again.

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