Read Poetry: Bardsong I, by Adam Callahan

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In open sea, in timeless hour,
A legend sails against the winds;
Its speed is its defining pow’r;
It flies far from its many sins.

She’s captained by a forlorn soul,
A lonely man with heart most true,
Whose stalwart ship does pitch and roll
Unbreaking in the wat’ry zoo.

They ’round the world have ever fled,
And, seldom seen in realms of men,
His kin and hers assume them dead
And neither pine for new brethren.

Beknownst to few, the tragic pair
Run with empathic anima;
They sail in oceans rough and fair,
The Captain, and Virgilia.

Once, long ago, they did make port:
A city known only in song
Awaited them; its King’s great court
Invited trav’lers to belong.

There pillars tall and arches wide
Surrounded guests from far and near;
Musicians played, and dancers tried
To win someone for to hold dear.

Amidst the court, in stony chair,
The King looked o’er his happy lot;
And on his right there stood so fair
His daughter, Princess Khama’at.

Her copper skin gleamed as the day’s
Last light wore thin; her figure soft
Did draw the Captain to her gaze;
Her chin she held just so, aloft.

The King was jolly, for that he
Had vanquishéd the Ancient Wyrm;
He called for songs of bravery,
So none would doubt his courage firm.

“Ye bards and players, young and old!
Sing! Tell the tale of how your King
Did tame the beast, break ope its mold,
And send it to its reckoning!”

The players nodded, sang a tune
Of godly deeds, adventures grand,
And told the tale of Elderrune,
The blade that made the dragon’s brand.

And all the while, the Captain watched
The Princess, clad in cloudy white,
Whose eyes stared back, as arrows notched
In bows of yew, as stars of night.

As firelight grew around the place,
So’t flickered on the raven hair
Of Khama’at; and, too, her face
Did glow like flames in the night air.

The Captain, fixéd on her eyes,
Mov’d through the crowded palace-ground;
To meet her, he assumed the guise
Of rev’ler, and so, through he wound.

When fin’ly he did reach the throne,
He gazed up at this masterpiece
Of gods: this woman, she alone,
Did make the light itself increase.

More beautiful was she than he
Imagin’d from across the way;
So strong, yet delicate was she;
He knew not what to do or say.

When, looking up to her, he found
His stare returned: fair Khama’at,
Intrigued by strangers from around
The great wide world, had his gaze got.

She put a finger to her lips—
A warning, but a friendly one—
She gestured t’ward the bay of ships
Then looked away, their contact done.

The Captain, unsure what to do,
Did turn around and head out past
The dancers and the players too,
Through heavy doors of iron cast.

And for a moment he, confused,
Sat down upon a bench of stone
Out in the garden; and he mused
While he was sitting all alone.

When, just before he stood to go,
Sweet Khama’at, as if a bird,
Did glide into the flower’d row,
And ask if she might have a word.

“Dear gentleman, thou’ve traveled far,
Pray tell what stories thou’ve beheld!
Thou come from und’r a dif’rent star,
Thy tales must be unparalleled.

“I knew when I did see thee that
Our paths had crossed as fate saw fit;
Now ope mine eyes, fair sailor, at
The end of twilight’s redly wit.”

The Captain, caught off-guard, began
To tell of sagas from his home;
He told her how he these days ran
Each long day under sunny dome.

But he could not tell stories long,
For stars began to twinkle bright,
And in the Princess’ eyes a song
Of old reflected back their light.

A goddess she must be, he thought,
For naught else could be so divine
As Khama’at; and so he sought
To pray their fates might more entwine.

“Fair Princess: true, I’ve travelled far,
And have beheld a lengthy tale,
But never have I seen a star
That would not next to you grow pale.”

And Khama’at, without a sound,
Stood tall and offered out her hand;
The Captain and she walked around
The garden to the beach of sand.

Then lusty moon arose and smiled
On the unlikely pairing there;
The salty waves became less wild,
For that the pair could list’n and share.

Fair Khama’at spoke quietly
Of royal conquests she had seen,
Of realms exotic, far and free,
Of mystic places she had been.

The Captain told of oceans deep,
The likes of which he’d sailed with ease,
The way he saw the heavens weep
Into the vastness of the seas.

And closer they unceasing grew,
As if made to by providence;
Somehow, the man and woman knew
That destiny was coming hence.

They laughed and cried under the sky,
Assisted by the very hours:
Time itself seemed to ne’er go by,
And stars rained over them in show’rs.

The very constellations now,
Were smiling, each drawn to the sight
Of lovers young knowing not how
They, destined, met this perfect night.

The pair looked to the happy moon,
And then into each other’s eyes,
And laid upon the sandy dune
Embracing ere the sun did rise.

The night conspired to never end,
But morning light began to glow;
The Sun so prideful thought to lend
Its brighter face to friend and foe.

For foe did thence appear, unbid:
The King, amidst his royal guard,
Had sent out search when find he did
Khama’at’s room, empty, unbarred.

“Stand, whelp!” He ordered, fierce as fire,
“Wherefore hast thou lain with my child,
The Princess? Your sin, runt, is dire!
Your punishment will not be mild!”

The Princess stood, far taller than
Her father King had ever seen;
She took aback the fat old man
With teary eyes, both cold and mean.

“Oh, Father, why must you persist
To hide me like a little girl?
I am full-grown; now, spare your fist,
And sheath your blade; your hand, uncurl.”

The King was struck; he hadn’t known
His daughter ever to speak back;
And so, he struck back with a tone
He’d often used when on attack.

“Fair daughter mine, thou’ve broke mine heart,
And now, for his sin, so thou’ll pay.
Guards! Take them, one from oth’r, apart!
The gods will rue this sinful day.”

Khama’at, brave, took action then;
She grabbed the Captain by the hand,
And ran like wind t’ward last haven:
The harbor, and escape from land.

The King demanded, from uphill,
His guard to fire upon the man
Who’d stolen his sweet child, to kill
The thief who, with his riches, ran.

So arrows flew; but Destiny
Allowed the pair to safely get
To ship; the two were nearly free—
But kings not oft forgive a debt.

He ordered for a second round
Of shafts sent at the haughty sot;
One fin’ly hit, its target found:
But not the Captain—Khama’at.

The King cried out, but all too late:
The arrow hit its mark; he fell
And cursed the gods who’d used as bait
A sailor for his line to quell.

And Khama’at, in death’s embrace,
Did breathe a last word to the mate
Who’d held her close and touched her face,
Who’d shown her love with help of fate.

“Sweet sailor, go. And with you bring
The memory of what we shared:
This night of love, a wondrous thing;
So few die having loved and cared.

“Go. Take your ship, and leave me here;
The gods will carry me away.
You needn’t worry, merely steer;
And find me in the light of day.”

With that, the Princess closed her eyes.
The Captain, list’ning, lifted sail.
The guards turned ‘way from their King’s cries.
The morn did hide ‘neath teary veil.

Yet, as he pulled away from shore,
The Captain saw angelic light;
Khama’at’s body was no more,
Her soul was lifted, high and bright.

He felt a warmth upon his brow,
And knew the Princess left the earth;
But she would e’er be with him now,
As light; he’d solely know its worth.

Far in the sky, this new-wrought star
Did find its place in heaven’s realm;
And so the Captain travelled far
Ever aligning star and helm.

And always does the Captain chase
The star he knows is his to find;
One day, he’ll see his lover’s face
Once more, at last, when death is kind.

Until then, he will ever sail,
A never-ending quest; his lot
Is to reach the end of his tale,
Where he will find his Khama’at.

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