Three Deaths
by Leah Bobet
 



 

I.

 

his father told him

the wings were wax;

strain, stretch, and tremble, but he'd never reach the sun.

his father was a sculptor:

innovative, wise

he did nothing incautious.

deliberate and cool,

labyrinth-methodical.  the wings were wax.

 

he wept between the copses of new-trimmed poplar

the sun came up behind the trees

the sounds of the workshop came over the hills

and woke the olives.  the wings were wax.

 

a night and a day.  he strapped them on,

corpse-cool against his sunburnt back.

 

they ran and scalded before he fell;

molten, misshaped, seared sky and skin

he didn't notice, fists tight, breath thin

waiting teeth-gritted for the fall.

his eyes were on the sun.

 

 

II.

 

eyes on the sun

and sea, he waits.

you take his chair out to the pier

at dawn, and wheel it back at dusk.

 

the instruments are shown: sextant,

tide-clock, glass.  birds peck

at withered feet for crumbs.

you shoo them off.  you didn't once.

they bit his ankles blood and raw.

you sponged them clean with vinegared wine;

he tossed and cried, and cursed and cried.

 

"I should have gone with," he sobs and shakes

when the navigation-stars come out.

"the dark, broad seas. life to the lees.

some work of noble note may yet be done-"

 

he was years from home.  you wash his face.

you spoon his dinner with wrinkled hands

that weave no more, that pain and shake.

"I should have gone to seek-" he cries.

 

the lights begin to twinkle from the rocks.

the long day wanes: the slow moon climbs.

"no," you say, like every night

weeping words that taste of vinegared wine.

though much is taken, much abides.

 

"no."  you press him to your chest.

the sea is close.  it tastes you both.

you whisper.  "stay.  live.  stay."

 

 

III.

 

"stay.  live.  stay," they said.

their voices touched your skin like thirst.

the men fled below; the sheep bawled

until you cut its throat; the blood

flowed down into the river.

 

you were misled.  they knew no futures;

nothing mortal man did not.  "there is no

wisdom in death," they said.

the blood ran red as pomegranate seeds.

the sheep drooped under your sea-strong arm.

its last breath was weak; it sounded like weeping.

 

"hoist sail," called the captain.

water ate his words.

 

"not yet.  not yet," they whispered thick

in voices of wool and wear and time.

"converse.  bear witness.  stay a while."

they looked like your mother.  they looked

like your lovers, aged and bent slow under

years of toil.  their hands were your hands.

you could not refuse.

 

you fasted that night, and lit no torch.

the waves sounded soft against the hull.

you lay with your back against the boards

they whispered: their names. 

you did not speak.

 

you told your wife these tidings later

as they commanded, begged, beseeched;

"you have learned something of death," she said,

her hand in yours, her lips on yours,

her sweat sweet-drying on the sheets.

"nothing," you said.  "nothing."

 

a sheep wept in your dreams that night.

and you could not see the stars.

 

 

 

About the Author:

Leah Bobet lives in Toronto, where she studies linguistics and works in Canada's oldest science fiction bookstore. Her fiction has appeared recently in Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, and several Year's Best collections, and her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling and the Pushcart Prize. She is currently tackling a novel with one hand, a comic book script with the other, and a collection of fairytale poetry with her feet.



 


Poem 2007 Leah Bobet.  Painting by Lord Fredrich Leighton circa 1869.