THE ENNUNMENT CANTO 10
Gtounds of Eldor Palace in Mecnita
From eastern Ub had Bárti come by chance,
From Ságha'a, a province newly formed.
Originally, Udi, to enhance
The value of that tract, where insects swarmed
Above the Ghásbi Swamp, malaria
Was rife and reptiles slithered, did decide
To drain the marshes of the area,
Conducting water to its northern side.
Al-Yáfilah had joined Memléket Ghasb.
A province and a kingdom they had been,
But now together, in the sovran clasp
Of all-embracing Ung, were gathered in,
And took the name of Sagha'a instead.
Here stagnant waters swelled by rains torrential
Harmed health, and floods left many people dead.
Queen Udi's rule was therefore providential.
"The Karamánta Desert, northern waste,
A thousand miles from Sagha'a lies sprawled.
What would it cost, if a canal emplaced
From swamp to desert, all in concrete walled,
Were built to pump the waters south to north,
With treatment stations all along its path,
To filter and enrich, as they flowed forth,
The waters raised from their palustral bath?"
She wondered, and the answer was provided
By Ajinblambia, while still a guest,
Before to marry Udi she'd decided.
Her grasp of all the problems, always best,
Enabled her to estimate the talents
The Queen must needs expend from out her purse.
She itemized them all, accounts did balance,
Exactly stating how much she'd disburse.
Queen Udi'd recognized already how
The Gangawaran girls were highly gifted,
How genius did these prodigies endow,
Who to Mecnita, as it were, had drifted.
So she conducted tests that clarified
That Barti, who was eldest by a year,
Possessed intelligence most rarefied
As architect and civil engineer.
The Queen appointed Barti to design
Canal and floodgates, stations that would pump
And purify, with highways down the line,
Creating in the barren lands a sump.
The girl from Kshaddi made the calculations
And drew the diagrams that appertained.
She authored accurate specifications,
Adhering to the codes that Ung maintained.
This took one hundred days. She moved like light,
Her fingers typing programs cybernetic.
Her plans were accurate, her figures right.
She must have had a memory eidetic.
Ung's structural commission oversaw
Such projects with its fifty-member panel.
Her contract documents passed into law
When they'd approved her concept of the channel.
She went at once to Osh, began to hire.
Bulldozers, backhoes, dragline excavators
Felled trees, smashed stone, shore earth and plowed through mire,
Scared off the crocodiles and alligators.
It took five years to finish the canal,
But it had been in operation nine.
Instead of dunes, now pasture and corral,
Farms' wheat and orchards' pome and vineyards' vine
Made verdant every acre, all the tilth
That lay within a swath of many miles.
A land of plenty'd risen from the filth,
With rubble fence surmounted by oak stiles.
All that was needed was a nunnish chapel,
A shrine and abbey to be built in Ghasb,
In Sagha'a, the land of nut and apple,
A high-walled convent sealed with lock in hasp.
The Queen bade me go west to Osh by plane
With Barti to survey this new dominion,
Select a site and help design the fane,
Returning on a rocket-raised jet pinion.
My stay would be but passing, and secure,
Far from Sambákang, Qizilót and Mli.
Then I'd assume my ladyship for sure,
And Zúniga and Zóffas oversee.
So I agreed. One ought not challenge queens
When they request, for thus they may be pained
And start commanding. It is in their genes
When dynasties millennia have reigned.
With Barti so to Osh at once I flew.
She too was titled Queen, but she had power,
Whereas to Udi honor now was due
Just as Queen Consort, captivating flower
Who had surrendered her authority
To Ajinblambia, our lady King,
Within whose harem, though, she had seniority,
While I was busy with my nunnish thing.
Queen Udi could undoubtedly persuade
The King to bid me do as she'd proposed,
So when she spoke, attention must be paid,
E'en though supposedly her reign was closed.
But all went smoothly on my trip to Ub.
I toured the whole canal by limousine.
'Osh Convent' I'd decided that I'd dub
The cloister to be founded on the scene.
Osh Convent would be built upon the shore
Of a small lake that Barti had created,
To draw the waters, their excess to store,
Whenever her canal was inundated.
This was a spot with knolls and groves of ash,
Warm all the year around with gentle zephyrs.
Here herons waded and red deer did dash.
Here fillies frisked, and gamboled calves and heifers.
Queen Barti took me to her own chalet,
A lovely house upon a chalky cliff.
'The Pearl of Osh' she gave it sobriquet.
There you caught lilacs' and gardenias' whiff.
Her office had a drafting board. Thereat,
She quickly drew the plans, as I inspected,
In sev'ral days we had produced the plat,
The layout of the shrine to be erected.
It was decided, settled, signed and sealed,
Just as Queen Udi promised would be so.
A mere two months I lingered in the field
Ere to Mecnita I emplaned to go.
Osh Convent Barti would herself construct,
Excused from canon by the King's command.
Then I'd return in order to induct
New sisters from the precincts of that land.
The work would take six months, perhaps a year,
But I'd be in Mecnita all the while,
Where there was nothing evil, nought to fear,
I'd even be allowed to live in style.
I went to visit Holy Armalíssa's,
A convent in Piljándar where the nuns
And I were friends, exchanging many kisses.
These sisters were among the very ones
That I'd admired and imitated madly,
E'en long ere Ajinblambia'd deported
Me to Defdefa. So it was most gladly
I'd donned a veil and with the nuns consorted.
My thirst for all things nunnish, never quenched,
Drove me to mad distraction like a fever.
The tenor of my thoughts, completely wrenched,
Turned me from atheist into believer.
Around the city, sisterly appareled,
With Armalissa's swans sights did I see.
With them I prayed, I chatted and I caroled,
All long before the King had cloistered me.
Thank goodness here on Nya there is no stigma
When that a man is changed into a lady.
It's not a puzzle, riddle or enigma.
It's not considered dubious or shady.
Should I blame Armalissa's wimpled throng
For their sweet irresistibility?
It made the nuns insuperably strong,
Reducing me to weak docility.
My dearest friend was Quequeménia,
A stately, pink-cheeked, white-coifed, black-veiled sister
Who'd shown my eyes the new millennia,
Explained to me spectroscopy, transistor,
Microbiology and DNA,
Telecommunications of the day,
Magnetic resonance, geology.
She taught these in the classrooms she conducted.
Advanced far, far beyond what this required,
She did astonish me as she instructed,
Amazed and dazzled me. I was inspired
To imitate her, emulate her, vie.
I tried to talk like her and walk like her. I longed
To know what she knew, do as she did, sigh
And smile like her, belong where she belonged.
I'd been delighted many years before
When she gave me a habit, as a jest,
Suggesting playfully that, if I wore
The habit, I'd be admirably dressed
To go with her to her religious college,
Where she taught subjects to most gifted students.
There I'd be able to imbibe her knowledge
And quaff of her intelligence and prudence.
I'd had her to the palace many times.
I'd serve her tea and crumpets in my suite,
And listen to the melodies and rhymes
Her words were stockinged in, like metric feet.
In retrospect, I think it may have happed,
As Quequemenia and I appeared
In Eldor's corridor one morning, wrapped
In veils of black, somebody peeped and peered
And glimpsed us as we gingerly trode by.
This was before my nunhood. I was wary
Lest I be caught. Perhaps they did espy
Me nonetheless, my stealth caused to miscarry.
If that be so, the witness may have told
To Ajinblambia my masquerade.
Maybe they thought it funny and made bold
To make of it a silly pasquinade.
Regardlessly, that night at ten or so,
I went to Udi's chamber to retire.
The ladies were embraced. They bade me go.
No longer did my presence they desire.
From that day on, I was denied admission
To royal Udi's bedchamber and bed.
It mattered nothing that I begged permission,
For Ajinblambia was there instead.
A few days later, when her rockets vanished,
And Photon I towards heaven did careen,
Into the nunnery myself she banished.
She'd have exclusive title to the Queen.
The rest you know if you have read this tale.
Thus Quequemenia's had been the hand
That helped put on my head the pious veil.
Now, after years, before her I did stand.
Her convent was autonomous, her nuns
An order in their own right, not beholden
To any other order of the ones
That Ung has recognized from ages olden.
It seemed that Quequemenia looked up
To me, now that I'd stablished many places.
This grew apparent as we sipped a cup
One pleasant afternoon, with smiling faces.
We talked and talked. At last, she seemed to hint
That Holy Armalissa's I absorb,
Adjoining it to my own group by dint
Of my influence with Ung's sovran orb.
I was surprised, for I had looked with awe
On Armalissa's, deemed it an ideal.
Their canon and their sacrament I saw
As things somehow beyond all that was real.
But Sister Quequemenia persisted.
Therefore, I felt obliged to nod my head,
How could I possibly quite have resisted,
When this fair lady so besought and pled?
Negotiations did continue days,
But finally did Armalissa's join
Defdefa's cloisters. We our count did raise,
Unto our arch thus adding a sixth quoin.
It thus was needful that I there reside
Some months as acting abbess to install
The liturgy by which they must abide,
The canon that would regulate them all.
So I moved for a season to Piljandar,
Some forty miles from Eldor, north-northeast.
If I may be allowed to speak with candor,
I was much gratified, to say the least.
First thing I noticed was the biliments
The nuns at Holy Armalissa's clad
Themselves withal. The skirts with filaments
Of wool were sewn together, so they had
Both hems and seams, which strictly is forbidden
By the Defdefan canon. We must needs
Create new habits with all stitches hidden.
This is the rule that regulates our weeds.
Their icons and their missals varied too.
We had to smith new images of gold
With amethyst and garnet, and review
The wording and the script of writs enscrolled.
In Ung, of course, all priestesses are nuns.
They sacre every sacrament, say mass,
Composing polyphonically the Sun's
High hymns. They teach them to each novice class.
Their chords and their motifs did not obey
Prescriptions of our musicology.
To modify them then we worked away,
E'er mindful too of our theology.
Some of the cells and corridors we altered,
Installing niches or removing shelves.
We busied us completely, never faltered,
As we gripped levels, planes and hammers' helves.
We plastered ceilings and we painted walls.
Our more artistic sisters did design
Fine murals that extended down the halls,
In crimson, mulberry, celeste and wine.
Gold leaf we did apply around the edges.
Squares of obsidian we set like tiles
Upon the wainscots, pilastrades and ledges,
According to the most exalted styles.
New carpets were imported and emplaced,
In shades of fuchsia, russet, plum, maroon.
With geometric patterns they were traced,
With undulation, damascene, festoon.
Outdoors we planted scarlet poinciana
Already fully grown, conveyed by vans
Leviathan, and clusters of banana,
And bird-of-paradise and massive fans
Of ravenala everywhere were seen.
Tree ferns and horsetails and polypody
And maidenhair, in all the depths of green,
Were tossed as if by serendipity.
At length, all did conform unto the rules
Bequeathed us from our ancientest regimes,
E'en earlier than Ulv's, who in our schools
In century 934 meseems
They teach o'er a much smaller Ung held sway,
But he won Peokólo's hundred cays,
A mini-archipelago today,
In Ungonesia, in the southern seas.
Our foundress, Mevandólia, did flourish,
Oh, circa century 833,
Back 20,000 years, and she did nourish
The seed of our Defdefan legacy.
Defdéfa, Carvanílli, Tantakóram,
Sambákang, Armalíssa, Osh, the six
That made the empire's sacerdotal quorum
Would bear the seal I hereby do affix.
My business in Piljandar now complete,
I did return to Osh and there enrolled
Five hundred nuns to settle in that seat
Of piety, in habits to enfold.
This took some months, then once again I flew
By mini-jet to Mwálgoic Island, where
A twenty-mile runway came in view.
By maxi-jet I could fly on from there.
This trip was twenty thousand miles through heaven.
Nya's mean diameter is o'er eighteen.
Circumferentially, it's fifty-seven.
Specific gravity is low, I ween.
Despite the planet's size, acceleration
Produced by gravity is as on Earth.
Our weight is more by just a wee gradation.
A barrel of black gold has equal worth.
Year 416 had just been ushered in.
My persecutions and peregrinations
Had torn me and had worn me very thin.
I longed for holidays and for vacations.
But first there were the passions of denial
Our faith prescribed for certain days and years.
Each nun must fast or undergo a trial,
And demonstrate her faithfulness with tears.
Each nun's superior thus makes the choice
Of what the nun will sacrifice or suffer.
The nun herself is silent, has no voice.
Superiors oft cosset. Some are tougher.
As abbess of all abbesses in Ung,
I didn't have superiors at all.
But Ajinblambia her scepter swung,
Deciding whereunto my lot would fall.
Our lady Monarch showed herself resourceful
Devising the ordeal that I'd endure.
It left a lasting mark, an ímpress forceful.
It was bizarre and balmy, to be sure.
Around my waist she locked a metal band,
Around each wrist a metal bracelet too.
The waistband had a socket for each hand.
Each bracelet had a plug that went into.
A laser light-curtain was at my door
And would not let me through unless the plugs
Had been stuck in the sockets just before.
However, if I'd placed them in the lugs,
I could pass through and step into the hall,
But once I'd reached the hall, I couldn't pull
The plugs from out their sockets, not at all.
The bond between them was complete and full.
Just by returning to my rooms might I
Remove my wrists and free my elbows then.
If I stayed out, however I might try
I couldn't loose my arms and hands again.
My arms akimbo, days for me were hard.
I'd walk the palace with my trumpet sleeves
Afloat in both directions half a yard,
As if my mantled shoulders had black eaves.
I couldn't open doors or hold a cup.
I couldn't draw a drape or light a lamp.
If I sat down, I couldn't get back up
Unless somebody grabbed me by my guimpe.
Akimbo sixteen hours a day, I found
My arms would fall asleep like lengths of lumber.
Each arm with every other I'd confound,
Not even quite remembering their number,
Till that, at last, at nine, I was permitted
To go back through my light-curtain and door.
Inside, now that my sin had been remitted,
I'd have eight hours of freedom, scarcely more.
I went about for weeks, my arms akimbo.
I felt so idiotic and absurd
That I had been committed to this limbo,
My arms like wings of an anhinga bird!
But that was just a prelude. There was more.
The Vrikshaya a 'goblet' had contrived.
This was an artifice that on the floor
On robot wheels could roll till it arrived
Whithersoever haply she'd decide.
The goblet's base consisted of a disk
Of brass, two inches thick and three feet wide,
So heavy that there wasn't any risk
The artifice collapse or capsize could.
Six wheels were underneath. Above, a post,
Or column, if you will, erectly stood.
Two inches' thickness, height two feet at most
Made it as rigid as a clipper's mast.
Upon the post, the goblet's bowl was mounted,
Long-leg brass panty-girdle, stoutly cast.
To metal mesh or grillwork it amounted.
The girdle hinged. Its lap could come undone.
The inner side was lined with velvet crush,
In tufts on rubber foam. If anyone
Should sit therein, she'd feel the padded plush.
The Vrikshaya commanded me inside,
Then shut the hinges of the girdle's lap.
The waistband snapped around me. If I tried,
I'd never it be able to unsnap.
So I was seated in mid-air, my legs
Just kicking awkwardly, like trunks of trees
That swivel o'er a trailer full of eggs.
The girdle left me free below my knees,
Till Ajinblambia my ankles clasped
In two brass rings fixed to the girdle's cuffs.
They too were padded, lest my legs be rasped.
In fact, they were adorned with lacy ruffs.
My habit's skirt she then did let fall back
Around the disk. There cork, a strip, was glued.
To this she with black pins my skirt did tack.
Disk, bowl and post no longer could be viewed.
For all the world, it seemed I merely stood
Wherever I should happen for to be.
No one could see, nobody ever would
Surmise my legs were doubled under me.
Remote control enabled our fair King
To rotate me or roll me where she'd chosen,
But once I got there, certain was one thing:
I couldn't leave, for all intents there frozen.
Embarrassing it was, when in a crowd
Of courtiers, guests or servants I'd been placed,
And smiled as sweetly as my state allowed,
That, unexpectedly, away I raced,
Or started gyroscopically to twirl,
Beginning slow, then turning fast and faster,
Till like a plane's propeller I did whirl.
You'd think that I was headed for disaster.
How could I possibly explain my spin,
My pirouette? Was I a ballerina?
Incredulous, the crowd would gape and grin.
Was I a skater in an ice arena?
The passions of denial closed at length.
I was spared further such indignities.
Relaxing for a while, I gathered strength
To concentrate on my benignities,
Communicate with others in our order
And correspond with letters writ by hand.
I'd play my harp, my lute or my recorder,
Or shuttle in my loom a woolen strand.
Sometimes a cup of chocolate i'd sip,
Or nibble at puff pastry, leaves of palm,
Or biscuits of brióche bring to my lip.
How 'twas delightful, tranquil, placid, calm!
But suddenly the news broke out, on Mli,
Where Shándra still as Queen of Vávlu reigned,
That Líscarn, Vrandz and Shwéa, kingdoms three,
By Ufzu'd been annexed and were retained.
The annexation had been swift and gentle,
But convents must be built now on the scene.
The structural precedes the transcendental,
On Nya, our planet, as on Earth, I ween.
I couldn't help, when first I heard these news,
Exclaiming, "Oh, my goodness!" shedding tears,
For I remembered Carvanílli's mews
And war with Vrandz erupting in those years.
I was reluctant to return to Mli,
Aboard a spaceship, Photon VI or VIII,
And to appear in Vavlu, or go see
Yon Qábjang Stadium or Vórnda Gate.
Queen Zípsi still ruled Shwéa's lands, thou hark'st?
We'd gotten on right decently, I'd say,
When Ojojónia and Ólofarcst
And I'd put down our module one bright day.
That was in year 389 or so.
With Nrip and Vmic and Vabg, we three traversed
The gorges, indigo where rivers flow
Amid pinaceous and taxaceous hurst.
That was the time when Oa took us captive,
Demanding that Queen Udi pay a ransom.
I proved less versatile, much less adaptive
Than I'd supposed. My conduct wasn't handsome.
Well, anyway, with Zípsi I'd rapport,
As I would need since that which I would crave,
When I stood that tall Monarchess before--
Permission for a nunnery--she gave.
It was felicitous that Shwéa lacked
Religious orders, nunneries and fanes,
For simpler was establishment, in fact,
Than supersession and transition's pains.
In rugged Qábjang, town of the frontier,
Where people roasted meat beneath the sky
And split-rail fences stood afar and near,
It was agreed an abbey I might try.
So Qábjang Cloister would be number seven
Among my nunneries all in a row.
A thriving convent would be fair replevin
For losses we had suffered long ago.
Huge rusticated boulders served as walls,
And logs, placed viga-like, did rafters' chore.
You wouldn't barefoot walk along our halls,
For knots and splinters jutted from the floor.
In Shwéa, furniture consists of furs
Thrown randomly before the hearth, a table,
Some benches maybe, if a guest prefers.
A house there might be likened to a stable.
Our Qábjang Cloister was as rough and rude,
With ten large rooms whose walls were six feet thick.
Our vestments were coarse linen, crooked, crude.
Our lamps were blazing torch or candle's wick.
For meals we had agáric, turnips, yams,
With jerky, pork rind, pigeons or jerboa.
On rare occasions, they would slaughter lambs,
Just as when thence I'd gone to visit Oa
With Ólofarcst and Ojojónia
In a contrivance Shweans called a spider,
That swam broad rivers, chopped scammonia,
And hurtled over ridges like a glider.
Some Shwean lasses entered in our ranks.
One Sister Rwa, after indoctrination,
Was made the acting abbess, mostly thanks
To lack of others for this new vocation.
It was agreed that Sister Shalvanétti
From Carvanílli periodically
Would come to certain all was right and ready,
Inspecting everything methodically.
This new intendancy enabled me
To travel in a hovercraft to Vrandz.
No runway did exist. I couldn't see
Another way to cross so many lands.
Would Émshcro'ans be hostile, I did wonder,
For that they were a territory now,
That Shandra'd torn their sovranty asunder
And stood as captainess upon their prow?
If that was so, it surely didn't show,
For people there were full of fun and mirth.
You couldn't find their likes where'er you'd go,
Not here on Nya, I wager not on Earth.
Bright carnivals and pageants daily held
Drew throngs of thousands. Dancing, singing, games,
Amusements, entertainments swelled,
As breezes rang with myriads of names.
In my entourage were three other nuns.
Their names were Lóiva, Ámpinaz and Shcli.
Of all our thousands, these three special ones
Had chosen and were qualified for Mli.
These ladies were all beautiful and blithe,
As gay as geese, as jovial as jays.
Their graceful habits draped o'er forms as lithe
As any I had seen in all my days.
The Emshcroans adored them, gathered 'round
To hear their catechisms and their hours.
They'd fall'n in love, new préceptresses found.
Conversion was as quick as plucking flowers.
The citizens themselves were not at fault
For the invasion of year 402.
It was King Enk who'd planned that mad assault,
But he was dead, and fairer breezes blew.
Queen Mer-Elícsi did succeed Enk's wraith.
Now Vrandz became a gynecocracy.
This governance comported with our faith,
For less are bloodshed and hypocrisy.
Queen Mer invited us to Íbsho Villa.
She too was taken with the merry sisters.
A banquet had been set. Sprigs of vanilla
Did prick forged frogs that bulged with golden blisters
In crystal jars on tablecloths of lace,
And chairs upholstered iridescently
In crewelwork and bargello stood in place.
Admirers came and went incessantly.
Mer offered pheasants, partidges and quail,
With onions, capers, rice and aubergines,
And there were wine and cordials, punch and ale,
Of course with bread and butter, fruit and greens.
Études, sonatas and divertimentos
On violins and harpsichords were played.
Queen Mer distributed gifts and mementoes.
Conversing pleasantly, for hours we stayed.
Our thrifty regimen we'd set aside one day
Lest we offend our hostess, not partaking.
By rights we should some litanies soon say
For stoicism thoughtlessly forsaking.
Amid these fair festivities, however,
We had a perfect opportunity
To introduce our precepts, which, as ever,
No one abandons with impunity.
I shan't explain the precepts point by point.
So doing would require another ode.
The Sun as deity do we anoint.
Life's gold's extracted from that solar lode.
Forsooth, geography, geodesy,
Geology compose our total map,
Itinerary of our odyssey.
They are the theater where all things hap.
We don't expect that heaven or that hell
Awaits us after burial and death.
When tolls the clapper of the final bell,
No longer will we breathe breath after breath.
Our prayer is but soliloquy we know,
An hour of wistfulness, a minute's hope.
We seek salvation as we build and grow
Superb civilizations broad in scope.
We needn't manage hospital or shelter,
For Ung provides facilities like these.
These hospices do not rise helter-skelter
Or fall pall-mall with failed economies.
For ages they have stood both staid and stable.
They don't depend on mercy or insurance.
They're comprehended underneath the label
Of government's and commonwealth's assurance.
Queen Mer-Elicsi to our credo hearkened
For sev'ral hours after we'd been fêted.
Eventually, however, heaven darkened,
So we four sisters took our leave belated.
With evident approval she had listened.
Of course, her kingdom, Vrandz, was not an Ung.
'Twas not a land where tow'ring cities glistened.
For Vrandz's backwardness, her hands she'd wrung.
She therefore heartily encouraged us
To found new nunneries on granted lands.
She wanted furthermore that we discuss
Direct liáison linking Ung and Vrandz,
For, at that time, relations were oblique:
Vrandz was but part of Ufzu, which was part
Of Ung. Queen Mer more unity did seek,
An artery descending from Ung's heart.
She knew of my familiarity
With Ajinblambia and Udi twain.
She would that I sue them for parity
Of Vrandz with every state where they did reign.
Queen Mer's request was very reasonable.
I promised to present it to the throne.
It surely wouldn't be thought treasonable,
E'en if our King should not this thing condone.
That meant I'd have to hurry back to Nya,
Returning to Mecnita on a rocket,
To call upon our lady of éclat
And post Queen Mer's petition on her docket,
Then back again to Vrandz, for to continue
My own expansionist activities.
I'd stress each tendon, ligament and sinew,
Ascending, as it were, acclivities
That rose before me as we won the moon,
Enriching Ung's ubiquitous regime,
But we had dinar, talent and doubloon
To spend to realize our lovely dream.
My gravest problem, though, still lay ahead,
Now that our Ufzu's subjugating yokes
Had been imposed on Líscarn's bovine head:
How Hénnamarn I'd punish for her jokes.
Shcli, Ámpinaz and Lóiva stayed in Vrandz
To build an abbey on the Nárni River.
I tried to stanch secretions of my glands.
I own I with anxiety did shiver.
For Hennamarn was prophetess malign,
And oracle satanic and demonic,
Who'd tortured me in year 399
With cruel amusement and with glee sardonic.
I'd sworn I'd ne'er reveal her evil tricks,
And even though the tables now were turned,
My conscience, with its needles and its pricks,
Kept me from swearing warrants she had earned.
Instead, I would attempt to change her thinking,
Exacting neither punishments nor fines,
I'd have her quit the potions she'd been drinking
And hark our canon's paragraphs and lines.
My musing and excogitation idled
When news of new developments arrived.
A suicide in hopeless wrath unbridled
Had taken place in Vornda, all unshrived.
For Hennamarn, apprised of Liscarn's fall,
A double draft of strychnine poison drank.
From this she had expired, so shroud and pall
Invested her forever, cold and dank.
How great was my relief! I wouldn't face
My pérsecutrix in her sanctum eerie.
This meeting would have been like targe and mace,
A deadly duel, a confrontation dreary.
I'd been upon the point of my departure
To cross the Tswárfal Mountains, full of game,
Where there are many a hunter and an archer,
Where many a marksman and a bowman aim.
The Tswárfals jut between the two dominions,
'Twixt Vrandz and Liscarn. 'Cross them I must go
To get to Vornda, Liscarn, where her minions
And Hennamarn had caused me grief and woe.
Now I postponed the trip. It wasn't canceled.
In Vrandz I left the sisters in black veils,
So I could travel back to Eldor, Spranceld,
And all Mecnita's gardens, hills and dales.
Some time thereafter I'd go back to Mli.
I'd shuttle astronautically once more.
For now, though, for vacation, I was free.
A season's relaxation I'd in store.
I packed my weeds and relics in portmanteaus,
And flew to central Eb on Photon XII.
There I'd uptake my pen and write my cantos,
E'er mindful that posterity would delve
Into the records and the histories
We'd leave for their enlightenment and glory,
Into the secrets and the mysteries,
The hidden acts and chapters of our story.
I write this epopee in Nuu, the tongue
We speak--I overstate--galactically,
But it's official in all parts of Ung.
Our universities didactically
Disseminate its lexicon and grammar.
In English too to write it I'm enabled,
Howbeit I may hesitate and stammer
While translating this document i've tabled
For your perusal and your approbation.
Across the megaparsecs I have beamed
The gist and tenor of its frank narration.
I use technologies you've never dreamed.
We live a hundred fifty years at least,
Sometimes two hundred, often even more.
At sixty, we're still young. We haven't ceased
To blossom. We're still strong and getting stronger.
In year 420, then, I can expect
Another century for to survive.
I have eight nunneries, so, in effect,
My abbacy does marvelously thrive.
This autobiographic canticle
Describes my many contretemps and errors,
My trials with Hennamarn the mantical,
And Mbambo, with her onslaught and her terrors.
Then Jessamina drew on me a knife,
And Karamela made of me a maid.
Rijarli jailed me, sought to end my life,
And Oa swore she'd kill me unless paid.
Not least was Ajinblambia herself,
Who tore me from my spouse's breast and bodice,
As if I'd been a pygmy or an elf
And she had been a heroine or goddess.
Then there was Olezconia the First,
The abbess I'd succeeded as the Second,
Recall that once upon me she had burst.
With my contumacy she'd sternly reckoned.
I'd had with Barti and the other girls,
Embarrassments diverse and various,
As when, in Kshaddi, I had had mad twirls
Tied to a Maypole. Nought nefarious,
'Twas but a joke. Each joke must have a butt.
That was where I stood out, apparently.
I feel these silly scenes should not be cut.
The total tale I tell transparently.
Despite these misadventures and misháps,
With Ajinblambia, our lady King,
A hundred years' rapport should now elapse.
She is the supernova whom I sing.
I have my peace with Olezconia.
Defdefa has a statue of her newly,
A lovely piece amid begonia,
Wisteria, hydrangea and patchóuli.
She's still alive, residing in seclusion.
She sits on her verandah there to nibble.
In her gunpowder tea, a mint infusion
Or just a drop of honey will she dribble.
She'll write a note upon a paper scrap.
She keeps a pen and pad not very far.
A little board she places on her lap.
This serves her as a mini-escritoire.
She faxes me the note, or in the screen
Of her own vision phone the note she places.
She also has a scanner at the scene,
And so the note unto me always races.
These notes are my agenda, my instruction.
Thus with a word or two, she founds a church.
She merely writes. The labors of construction--
A stream to ford, o'er an abyss to lurch,
A horde to govern, savages to rule,
To sail the Vloshca, far away on Mli,
To plaster cells or renovate a school--
These Olezconia entrusts to me,
For I am but her fingers and her hands.
She is the word, and I the deed thereof.
My hormones are secreted by her glands.
Wherever I may be, she is above.
With Ajinblambia, our lady King,
Enjoys the abbess solidarity,
They almost always seek the selfsame thing,
Scarce ever does arise disparity.
To many who read Óbscont, it may seem
That I'm an innovatress, pioneer,
A prima donna high in Ung's regime,
But this is all illusory I fear.
I'm just a puppet or marionette
Whose strings are held in those two ladies' fingers,
A spray of lavender or mignonette,
A peony whose fragrance faintly lingers
Among the folds and drapĕry of their raiment,
Like to a corymb on a cherry tree,
Or, on a pussy willow, like an āment,
Howevermuch does Óbscont make of me.
You know the overstatements made in journals,
Where newsphotos of me are daily carried,
With editorials where truthful kernels
To silos of hyperbole are married.
Greater Mecnita's sev'ral hundred million
Thus use my name--that is, each of the three
That I've been known by as I've ridden pillion--
In household phrases venerating me.
First I was Vocno Ganven. Then I changed
To Sister Rogizlenia when veiled.
When through the nunnish dignities I'd ranged,
I would as Olezconia be hailed,
Adopting both her manner and her title,
As well as her high station and her name.
This all began that day when I did sidle
From off the road where I and Udi came
Defdéfawards, disguised for to escape
From Plúbac and from Jílndij's stiletto.
I tripped. A sister seized me by my cape.
Of this Ennunment, this is the libretto.
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