was Noorya. Not mild or docile, like dozens
of girls we saved. Dull-witted she wasn’t.
But rather shifty in her shame,
farouche, perplexing, graceful, grave,
with nocturne eyes that cast their gaze
toward some akin-imagined star;
her features sharp and delicate, fair
as violet-tinted nenuphar
in dusky pond or swampy lair.
A blue-eyed deputy of mine,
a Salyr bloke named Nur, designed
to steal her from me, thinking she
adored him, so mad in love was he.
Now understand, he was courageous
and strong, this man, yet thoughtful, shy.
affectionate. Like a brother I
considered him. The nineteen pages
of his importunate letter, which quivered
one morning atop my slippers (delivered
by a blushing Noorya), deftly
netted each criminal thought, each erring
event that had stolen his heart – “a theft re-
gretted, my lord.” He wrote of “caring
for Noorya more than himself.” His love
for her was like “the sprouting of
my beard, my hair” – a thing he could
“shave off, great Prince, but not for good.”
“A thing that uninvited came.
When Noorya said she loved me, too,
I knew that I must write to you,
my lord, requesting her hand. Our names,
you must admit, good Master — so near
are they in sound, that when you hear
them spoke, you’d swear that fate betrothed
us at our birth! I know the sort
of man you are, your greatness. You loathe
deceit but honor honest reports.
And hence, my Lordship, I’ve here confessed
the truth. No more, no less.”
at Nur’s good sense, I let decorum
prevail; to make things easy for him.
He chose the “Orchestra Pit” (a ditch
nearby, some forty meters deep,
in which the flies around a heap
of corpses strummed their strident pitch)
when given three options: “Tied upon
a rock for vultures to ravage;” “Drawn
and quartered by horses;” “Premature burial
in burning sand.”
My Noorya, possessed
by troubling trances, dreams, vicarial
visions of things to come, confessed,
alas, to fearing for my survival.
“Nur’s only crime is being your rival
in love,” she spat, her blood-rimmed eyes
serene, unmoving. “The men will rise
against you, surely.”
I said I knew
my men: “Their minds are tame. Their will
for mutiny mild.”
“If Nur is killed,”
she vowed, “I’ll hurl myself into
that putrid pit and there will lie
with him forever.”
allow such drifting thoughts to pilot
reason’s course? I won’t be harmed,
I promise you” – yet when my smile met
poor Noorya’s eyes, opaquely charmed
with somber premonitions, I knew
I couldn’t dispel her fears.
as I instruct you,” mother consoled me
when I recounted what Noorya had told me.
My mother’s cure?
The eve of Nur’s
appointed death, some fifty men
and I had finished supper when
– a peg of hazelnut liqueur
upraised – I stood and…
“Nur, old friend,
in poetry we oft emend
a faulty line, which once, in other
times felt right to us; and thereby show
mistake and wisdom both. My brother,
to your soft honesty I know
my reflex was too rough, too rash;
so let’s cross out my error, let’s dash
that stupid sentence.”
I’d done precisely
as mother had counseled: “Approach them nicely.
Put enemies at ease. Becharm
your men with fey contrition.”
at them, a grownup to a child,
and pledged that Nur would meet no harm.
And when I granted this reprieve,
what toasts they sang, what songs!
my thankful Noorya, having many
nights refused, agreeably slept
beside me that night; with few, if any,
suspicions. And when my mother crept
into our curtained chamber and wrapped
– and bound – a rug around my trapped
night-angel, so pacific were her
dreams, our woolen sack didn’t stir her.
And when her muffled screams, at last,
gave voice to the convulsing worm
that was our bundled rug, held firm
with knotted twine, my men were fast
asleep – especially Nur, unfaithful
friend, who’d reached, no doubt, the wraith-ful
end of sleep, to put it tastefully
(mother’s poison having persuaded
his sleep to snuff his life).
we left unseen, unheard, evaded
the dogs, and to my moonlit horse
strung kicking Noorya. We set our course
to Pollux’s star, due south. By dawn
we’d crossed the hills into Iran.’
More Tuesday Poems at Tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com.