THE ENNUNMENT CANTO 7
Hennamarn's Censer in the Temple of Vornda
Reviewing hastily the history
Of our relations---Hennamarn's and mine---
I will reveal the entire mystery
Before I think to pen another line.
Years earlier, I’d come with Shandra Queen
To Vornda on a holiday, for fun.
Still wed to Udi, I had not foreseen,
That Ajinblambia would be the one
To force me from her bed and take her hand,
To make herself her husband and her King,
Extending her own kingdom to each land,
To every ocean, to each living thing.
In Vornda, Hennamarn my fortune told,
“This year a King will mount the throne of Ung.”
I thought she’d meant that Udi’s realm would fold
And that usurpers’ banners would be hung.
I’d scoffed, dismissing as a wicked fraud
The oracle the sibyl had pronounced.
But it proved true. I verily was awed
That she’d the future faithfully announced.
Now I’d apologized and was her pupil.
In mantic arts I would matriculate.
I must own to it, for I have my scruple.
The total truth I thus articulate.
Yes, now, though abbess, once again must I
Unto a dame superior bend a knee.
Indeed as an apprentice must I try
To do as Hennamarn required of me.
An urn of jade and gold filled full of leaves
Stood in the inner sanctum of her fane,
And often there, in flowing gown and sleeves,
She added embers from a pot with chain.
So fragrant smoke would waft the room around
Nor could a soul avoid it to inhale,
But must breathe deeply fumes that did abound
And thus intoxicated quake and quail
As Hennamarn her mystic mantras sang.
’Twas frightening a sight as I’d yet seen,
For that her face did seem to suffer pang,
Her disembodied spectre to careen
And flap and rock and wobble in mid-air.
“My goodness, is she human?” I did muse,
For, surely, question her I did not dare.
“Is she a Vrikshaya? Is this some ruse
Whereto I’ve fallen victim by mistake,
Or even by design? But who’d contrive
To jeopardize my person or to make
A laughingstock of me or corpse alive?”
What was the nature of the leaf she smoked?
Was this a mere narcotic, evil weed?
Was this some opium, nepenthe-soaked,
Some balmy balsam or hypnotic seed?
It takes no saint to entertain a vision
Of highest Heaven when she’s doped and drugged.
Far be it from me to look with misprision
Or blandly just my shoulders to have shrugged,
When, seeing Hennamarn herself entránce
And hearing how she ranted and she raved,
When witnessing her wild enchanted dance,
Quick liberty more than aught else I craved.
She scared me. Yes, she did. I was affrighted.
Was I to be her prisoner and slave?
For surely Shandra’d never have invited
If she’d known in what straits myself she gave.
The paradox was that I little wist
Whereby to extricate me from the grip
Of Hennamarn, and nevermore to tryst
With her in Vornda, nevermore by ship
From Vavlu, Ufzu’s capital and seat,
Ne’ermore to step with habit meekly trailing
Into her shrine in Vornda in bare feet.
My cell, scarce ten feet long and two feet wide,
Was only five feet high, but had three rooms.
The bath was two by two and, at its side,
The cloakroom, two by two, as if for brooms,
Let me do off my habit and my shoe
With difficulty only, and my bed
Did occupy a space of six by two.
Erect I could not stand but must my head
There was no window, nor was there much light.
Inside the cell, I panic felt enow
But tried to hold clear reason in my sight.
Had I desired to flee, it seemed belike
That I should not escape in anywise.
The cell had no devices, nought to strike
An object or a person with, or prise
A plank or door or weather-strip withal.
There was no prick or auger, wrench or drill
That I could use to get me to the hall
And then to climb beyond the nearest hill.
So it meesemed I’d have to wait and serve
The dark-haired lady oracle at length.
Had I the wit, the courage and the nerve?
Did I possess sufficiency of strength?
My stay in Vornda had begun as science,
As training that would elevate my mind.
I hadn’t come to manifest defiance
Or argument with Hennamarn to find.
But as I saw these happenings, alarm,
An apprehension that I couldn’t name,
Did prompt me to deliver me from harm
By any measure whereupon I came.
My only venue it appeared to me
Would be to seize her when she lay enthralled
Within her sanctum, as I bent a knee
To offer my obeisance when she called.
She was a lady slender, slight and short,
Scarce more than but a snippet or a lass.
I should quite easily, as if in sport,
Be able her in combat to outclass,
If to resort to violence I chose.
I saw no other recourse, no way out.
So I’d lay hands on her as she did doze
Anesthesized with incense all about.
My plan was to put on her mystic gown,
Impersonating her as best I could,
As I strode spiritedly out of town,
Betaking me unto the nearest wood.
From thence I’d find a way for to return
To Shandra where she lived in
By such a strategy, by such a turn,
I would retrieve my old abbatial power.
Of course, I thought, if my design miscarries,
There’ll be revenge and punishment, I know.
For she’s the kind who torments and who harries
Her every rival, enemy or foe.
Therefore, let me be certain, I resolved,
That, making bold the sibyl to assault,
Each little puzzle I have fitly solved
Ere I attack beneath the temple’s vault.
At last, one morning, Hennamarn lay still
In some deep ecstasy, unconscious, quiet,
More dead than living, quite devoid of will.
“Now is the time for me to start the riot.”
I sprang from where I sat, just like an ounce
Who’s sighted prey and seeks it for to capture.
Upon the famed clairvoyant did I pounce
At just the climax of her mystic rapture,
At just the moment when she was immersed
In the profoundest coma and narcosis.
Upon her fantasies and slumbers did I burst,
Intruding rudely on her mad hypnosis.
For warriors, if you read your history,
Are wont to charge an enemy at night.
For when they’re sleeping, it’s no mystery,
They’re hardly ready to come out and fight.
Regrettably, analogies oft fail,
For Hennamarn was not a sleeping host.
No sooner than I ventured to assail,
She stood bolt úpright, like a living ghost.
Ere I laid hands on her, her hands on me,
Nor feeble nor effete, she laid with strength.
Eftsoons she threw me on her long settee
And held me prone, immobile at full length.
A cummerbund or sash about her waist,
Of pleated purple satin, she jerked off.
Five seconds later ‘round my wrists she placed
And tied the cummerbund, nor could I doff
My makeshift manacle, regardless how
I tugged and wriggled, shrugged and wiggled. “Zounds!”
Said I unto myself, despairing now,
“My sorrow is profound. My woe abounds.”
A minute passed. Then servitors did come
And bore me off unto another cell,
Larger and lighter than the one wherefrom
I’d hoped to fly but whence I only fell.
A day passed. Servitors came to my door.
Then to a courtyard where a lofty arch,
Parabola of stainless steel, curved o’er,
They caused me quite ungallantly to march.
The sibyl Hennamarn presided all,
Assigning to each servitor a chore.
Down from the arch’s apex they let fall
A chain that almost reached the ground, nor more.
Next thing I knew they’d haled me just below
And handcuffed me in leather lined with plush.
They hooked me to the chain. Up did I go,
But only very slow. They did not rush.
When that the slack all taken up had been.
A pair of plush-lined fetters they did ring
About my ankles, just below my shin.
Thereto an iron ball, a massive thing,
Did they connect with yet another chain.
Then on their windlass they the crank turned ‘round
Until that in mid-air, with stress and strain,
I hovered with the ball now off the ground.
Now I was but a chain-link dressed in black.
A hundred pounds the ball meseemed to weigh.
The servitors did pull me forth and back,
As pendulum did I begin to sway.
On either end the court, they’d hung a gong,
Ten feet it measured, huge cast iron thing,
And as I dangled, swinging swift along,
The ball did strike the gong and make it ring.
Ding, dong, ding, dong, ding, dong all morning long!
While Hennamarn triumphantly did smile.
She seemed to like the music of the gong.
Her fingers were batons conductor-style.
She nodded with the rhythm and the rhyme,
And grinned, it would appear with too much malice.
Her foot she patted as if keeping time.
“Oh, would that I could go to
This was so painful and embarrassing!
Who would have dreamt the sibyl thus would act—
A pious abbess to keep hárassing?
I marvelled that compassion she so lacked.
Now in my heart of hearts I did diminish
The guilt I’d felt for having scoffed at her,
Yes, to my sense of shame I put a finish.
To superego I would ne’er recur.
But notwithstanding, at her mercy, I,
For having been so rash as to attempt
Escape from out her clutches, might soon die
If Hennamarn held me in such contempt.
Day in, day out, she dragged me to the court.
Her servitors would chain me with the ball.
Apparently for Hennamarn ’twas sport
To do this right within the temple wall.
No longer might I go into the fane,
Into the sanctum where the censer stood.
My only audience was when, in chain,
I spoke if Hennamarn to listen would.
She was completely disinclined to hear
When any syllable I spoke aloud.
For pleading and entreaties she’d no ear.
By threats and warnings she would not be cowed.
Was she draconian? Was she sadistic?
Was she tyrannical or was she stern?
Was this the disposition of a mystic,
Or did aught else within her bosom burn?
She kept me sev’ral weeks in my new cell,
And daily I was taken to the arch.
This was a baleful punishment to tell.
To bear such trials I didn't have the starch.
I reasoned there would shortly be an end,
For Hennamarn knew surely I’d be missed.
Then Úfzuans arriving to defend
Down Vloshca would come sailing in the mist.
They’d liberate me. They would set me free.
How they would deal with Hennamarn I rued,
A party to such evil for to be
I surely lacked the spirit and the mood.
I was delivered by Queen Shandra's folk,
But 'twasn't as I'd pictured it would be,
For one fine morning Hennamarn me woke
And said that Ufzuans had come for me.
She said that her receptionists had not
Unto the Ufzuans bared aught at all.
They therefore knew nor dot nor bit nor jot
Of what was being done behind the wall.
If I should promise not to breathe a word
About the arch and gongs, she'd let me go,
Allow me to go flying like a bird
To Vavlu. Otherwise, I'd suffer woe.
For she would tell my rescuers that I,
With unexpected winter, caught a chill,
A pleurisy whence I did ail and die,
A pulmonary sickness that did kill.
So they'd return to Shandra and report
That recently, fall'n ill, I had expired
And nevermore to Vavlu would resort.
Yea, from the stage of life I had retired.
She'd keep me in her temple all my years
To bear such mischief as she could devise.
I would spend all my midnights shedding tears
And rubbing scarlet my repentant eyes.
Therefore I vowed I wouldn't tell the Queen
The tale of all the torment and travail
I'd undergone at Vornda's distant scene,
Imprisoned in my míniscule jail.
I swore upon my rosary, my beads,
My tongue would e'er endure paralysis.
To make me talk, nor opium nor weeds
Nor wine would e'er act in catalysis.
So Hennamarn released me to the crews
That Shandra had sent down the Vloshca River
To query whether there were any news
Whereof might mystic Hennamarn be giver.
It's only as these cantos I compose,
My written record for posterity,
That I acknowledge those ungodly woes
That Hennamarn wreaked with severity.
Embarrassing to me 'tis to confess
That, half my size, wee Hennamarn had sprung
From her mad swoon's profundity to jess
My wrists behind me. Oh, how I was stung!
It was one thing that Mbambo, like an ox,
Had held me in mid-air with her right arm
And threatened with her left my ears to box,
And do much mayhem and all hellish harm,
But quite another thing 'twas that this witch,
This tiny Hennamarn, when I began
My futile mutiny, did seize and pitch
My bungling body on a long divan
And tied me tight. But so the page did turn!
Thank goodness, Shandra had sent scouts around
On ships my whereabouts that they might learn,
Returning me to Vavlu safe and sound.
Despite the bale and bane of those events,
Methought I now possessed an inner eye,
A second sight, a transcendental sense
Enabling me my abbacy to ply
With more address, enhanced maturity.
Had I now extrasensory acumen?
Might I now apprehend futurity?
Was I now paranormal, superhuman?
Or was this all compensatory thinking?
Was I redressing my humiliation,
Just fantasizing as if I'd been drinking,
Hallucinating in intoxication?
Queen Shandra, though, a synod did convoke,
And called the lords and ladies of the land,
Forgath'ring round her tables made of oak,
Ten thousand souls that made a mighty band.
Of course, she wist naught of the diary
The Fates had writ, the journal of my trials.
She saw me now as bright and fiery,
And summoned everyone around for miles
To listen to my gospel and epistle,
Defdefa's legends and theology.
I did not speak of my abrupt dismissal
From Udi's Ung, or make apology
For my forsaken post beside the Queen.
'Twas too absurd, outlandish and bizarre
A tale. The Mlians surely ne'er had seen
Such happenings upon their little star.
The throng was taken with the narrative
I did deliver in the marble tower.
My register was just declarative,
Without rhetorically confected flower.
A hundred girls joined my sorority.
I welcomed them as postulants straightwáy.
Queen Shandra exercised authority
To designate some buildings for the day,
But afterwards a handsomer demesne
Would be selected in a sacred copse,
A hurst of larch and cedar. There a fane
And convent would raise verdigrised, steep tops.
Nor she nor I foresaw that horrid war
With Vrandz, another kingdom, would break out,
That Vrandzers would beleaguer Ufzu's door,
Invading and bethinking them to rout
Our Ufzuans, despoiling them of wealth
To carry back to Emshcro, their chief town.
They honored neither Ufzu's life nor health
And Candle Tower they'd sap and tumble down.
Unused to warfare, little skilled at arms,
The Ufzuans were diffident and frighted.
Queen Shandra, notwithstanding all her charms,
Was woebegone 'midst conflict thus incited.
I can't explain the dreadful inspiration
That filled my bosom clad in cashmere habit.
Somehow I rose for to harangue the nation,
More like a lioness that like the rabbit
I normally vied in timidity.
A conflagration blazed within my womb.
In wrath's accipitrine rapidity
I'd swoop upon the enemy with doom.
As nun, of course, I might not join the ranks.
Nor sword nor lance 'twas licit that I bear,
But I could rouse and rally on the banks
Of Narni River, where the foe did fare.
Upcountry there were rugged hills and dales
That Vrandz had wisely chosen to avoid.
They'd reasoned, "Must we cross bluff cliffs and vales
And let our vim and vigor be destroyed?"
Moreover, lofty ships from Emshcro sailed
On Narni's waters, heavy-laden barges,
For Vavlu's scutcheon they would strike, impaled
With pike instead of heralds' painted charges.
Whoe'er has seen an abbess in the van,
Sidesaddle on a mare before battalions
Defending Queen and Queendom to a man,
A host upon a herd of stalwart stallions?
'Twas like unto a medíéval maid
Who led one nation to lay low another.
Should Vrandzers triumph, surely I'd be flayed,
Cast into blazes. Me in smoke they'd smother.
With antiquated engines Vrandz laid siege.
They couldn't stop the steel machinery
Built from the blueprints sent us by our liege,
Wherewith to dominate the scenery,
For Ajinblambia was duly told
That warfare had erupted on the moon.
A corps of engineers she then enrolled,
Developing designs they'd broadcast soon.
To Vavlu on light-swift computer screens
They'd astrofax the drawings and the data.
Next, Ufzuans would find the ways and means.
They'd fill omissions and correct errata.
It so did come to pass that darkling ages
That Ufzu'd whiled in somnolence and sleep
Had ended, and the incandescent pages
Of a new book before our eyes did leap.
Our lady King the secrets had disclosed,
Enabling Ufzu to meet ram with crane.
Wood catapults by metal bulls were dozed.
Log towers were felled by draglines made of chain.
Yet Ajinblambia's technocracy
But partially the victory explained.
The keen morale of my theocracy
The Ufzuans in peril had sustained.
Eventually the Vrandzers did retreat,
Their engines and their armaments fordone.
Their flight to Emshcro, festinate and fleet,
Confirmed to all Queen Shandra's host had won.
The war, Queen Shandra doubtless realized,
Had not been won but for those great machines,
But fondly she myself idealized,
Imagined me o'er rivers and ravines,
Aloft upon my mare, as if on cloud
Illumined by the splendor of the Sun,
I swiftly rode, magnificent and proud,
Attired in veil and habit of a nun
That flapped and fluttered, flying in the breeze,
Whipped by swift winds that swirled and whirled with force
Above the branches and the crowns of trees
Atremble with the hoofbeats of my horse.
She did commission artists to depict
This vision she did entertain and cherish.
Such canvases, such colors Shandra picked
The painting ne'er would pale, ne'er would perish.
'Twas seven meters high and seven long.
She had it hung in Candle Tower's main hall,
Where everyone who ever walked along
Beheld it mounted high upon the wall.
But that was not enough for her meseemed.
She ordered lithographic posters struck.
Ten thousand were sufficient Shandra deemed.
The bills in public places soon were stuck.
Wherever you might look, the prints, like oils,
My fame proclaimed. In all the far-flung regions,
My faith was planted. In a hundred soils,
It sprouted. Postulants appeared in legions.
A new Defdefa Convent rose and stood,
An edifice of granite fitly hewn,
With rooftops peeping o'er the bristling wood.
Thus I brought Ung's religion to the moon.
I was shy and ashamed to be the crux
Of this new movement, this high-flown crusade.
Had Ufzuans but seen the seams and tucks
Hid in my mantle, they had not obeyed
My plea for piety, my call to duty,
But I'd a ready rationalization:
This was for Ajinblambia and Udi,
Permitting them full nationalization
Of Ufzu's regions recently annexed
And full adoption of their gorgeous Queen,
This Vrikshaya, into the writ and text
Of charters that would satisfy her lien,
For verily Ung's royals were beholden.
Queen Shandra'd done an estimable deed,
Disposing her dominions, hoary, olden,
Unto their rule. Yes, Ufzu she did cede.
The Vrandzers' siege had lasted near a year.
They'd ruined sev'ral buildings and a village.
There'd been a skirmish here, a battle there,
A sally then, a sortie now, for pillage,
But, finally, their foolish, feckless war
Had been undone, dispatched with dire address.
Our reconstruction took six weeks, nor more,
Our loss five thousand talents, maybe less.
Ung reimbursed us. They gave us the pelf.
The buildings were rebuilt. Now rose a wall.
We monitored--Queen Shandra and myself--
Inspecting, supervising, watching all.
So Vrandz was rendered a dependency
Of Ung and Ufzu, pacified and tamed,
Now that the confrontation's pendency
Did end, their march into our marches lamed.
The saving grace, in spite of our deep sorrow,
This nunnery in grove acicular
Became a pledge and promise for the morrow.
I personally each particular
Of its establishment with care prescribed.
A press was raised. Both mills and factories
Were organized. Fair mottoes were inscribed.
We fashioned beads and fine phylacteries.
A cloakroom of black habits from our looms
Accumulated quickly. We were clad.
Rare relics we restored inside out rooms.
A hundred hagiographies we had,
Illuminated with Defdéfan art.
Blue irises and yellow jonquils flowered.
Well-irrigated gardens we did start,
With silence and with symmetry endowered.
But long I'd been from Fwascren far away.
The time to fly to Nya was now at hand,
To trek the twenty miles, and to stay
A season on Ung's continents and land.
Once in Dwesfesco, I'd select a maid
Ambassadress to Shandra Queen,
To act as my replacement or my aide,
Our newest convent fitly thus o'erseen.
She was Rijárli, thirty-year-old nun
Who'd demonstrated buoyancy and brilliance.
Amongst our sisterhood, she was the one
Who'd shown the energy and the resilience
To be the acting abbess on the moon.
The necessary letters I wrote too
And placed within a purse she'd offer soon
In Vavlu for Queen Shandra to review.
Rijarli flew Air Fwascren of a morn
To Dorgdid. There she boarded Photon VII.
The crescent moon, a copper-colored horn,
Had barely set at dawn in western Heaven,
When that she gathered her capacious skirt
To climb the rungs that reached the spaceship's nose.
For any jolt or sound she was alert.
Precisely on the hour, the bullet rose.
Some solid color astrofax machines
Aboard the silver comet had been laden.
Rijarli would install them, mount their screens
In our new convent, where a novice maiden
Could gather up the replicas she'd got,
Transmitted from Defdefa swift as light.
The astrofax would copy every jot,
And reproduce all colors, pale or bright.
Similitudes of polyvinyl formed
In three dimensions, accurate and true.
In every way they faithfully conformed
Originals and prototypes unto,
So that, had you beheld them, you were dumb
If someone asked you of them which was which.
E'en drew you o'er them finger, or with thumb
You touched so slightly boss or point or stitch,
You hadn't been quite able to declare,
"Aha! That is the genuine, and this,
The one I now am holding in the air,
But as a copy I hereby dismiss."
Fine works of filigree and damascene,
Lamé and peau de soie and rosepoint lace,
We'd send to the domain of Shandra Queen
So that the nuns might emulate with grace.
Facsimiles they'd not merely store
As sacred souvenirs inferior.
But they'd create new works. They'd fashion more,
Quite equal or perhaps superior.
Rijarli would the project oversee.
I would commune with her by vision phone,
Which had a screen wherein to clearly see
Your cállee, large as life or larger shown.
I trusted her implicitly indeed,
As though she were a daughter or a niece.
I did bethink me that our nunnish weed
Became her as a ewe becomes her fleece,
That her fidelity were fast and firm,
Her dedication definite, devout,
That she would serve our order for a term
Of many decades passing in and out.
Our lunar convent we named Carvanílli.
This is a word of Ufzu that means flower,
For all around bloomed tulip, rose and lily.
Our nunnery was like a rustic bower.
For many months the lunar mission throve.
'Twould be in any galaxy a jewel,
The pride of Vavlu, Ufzu's treasure trove,
At once museum, chapel, shrine and school.
Some colons, commas, question marks and dashes
Incorporated in the text and diction
Of our capitulars, some strokes and slashes,
Might lead you to suppose our writs were fiction,
Unless you'd been instructed how to parse
Our phrases, sentences and periods
As meant. You elsewise might see them as farce,
Supposing flaws to number myriads.
Rijarli, poring o'er our books, was struck
By statements that impressed her as fallacious,
But rather than consult, 'twas our bad luck,
She chose to found a sect, and waxed tenacious
In independence, brazen, bold as brass,
Called Carvanilli an autonomy.
She hypnotized our sisterhood en masse,
Establishing her own economy.
Queen Shandra couldn't sway her. She was proud.
Defiance in her bosom rankled too.
She did revile the monarchess aloud,
And said she'd do as she saw fit to do.
I was apprised of all that was transpiring
In distant Carvanilli. I knew all.
I wondered what Rijarli was aspiring
To bring to pass. Sought she Defdefa's fall?
Deciding it were best to fly back soon
And monitor minutely mutiny
Unfolding in the forest on the moon,
I went to witness with due scrutiny,
Incognito, this situation dire,
Ere I took measures to disperse the smoke,
Extinguishing the fury and the fire
Upon the coals Rijarli thus did stoke.
I called myself Onárd and changed my guise.
Upon my head I wore a white cornette.
I claimed as nuncia I'd flown the skies,
Dispatched by Olezconia to get
The tidings and the tally of the times.
'Twas but routine and regularity
According to our regimen and rhymes.
This surely was no singularity
I would maintain by way of explanation
As to Rijarli I myself addressed,
Supposing for decorum's preservation
She'd welcome me and clasp me to her breast,
Her insubordination she'd conceal,
At least till she'd waxed indisputably
My equal in authority and weal
And could confront me irrefutably.
Anticipating I'd with flesh of kine
And cates be hosted histrionically,
With sanctimony me she'd wine and dine,
I was caught unawares, ironically,
When that the dénouement was quite reverse.
Rijarli made no secret of her guile,
Wore her apostasy, abject, perverse,
Exhibiting her wilfulness and wile.
'Twas not with hearty hospitality
I was received at Carvanilli's gate.
A different eventuality
Should I've foreseen, a fearsome, frightful fate.
Rijarli took me prisoner that hour,
And, clapping me in irons, locked me tight
Within a cell, within her stony tower,
With little food and water, little light.
'Twas problematic that nobody knew
That I'd incognito come to the moon.
E'en did they miss me, certain to be true,
They'd never have supposed she would maroon
My withered form behind blocks of basalt,
As if assailing me she had the right,
To pour upon my wounds a pound of salt,
Depriving me of sustenance and sight.
So how could I hope rescue would avail,
That Carvanilli, ransacked, would release
My remnant, that I would anon prevail
And from my sufferings secure surcease?
No one in Ung my whereabouts surmised,
Nor did Rijarli recognize my feature.
She wist not Olezconia, disguised,
Now languished in her dungeon, hapless creature.
It always had been said that I was flush
And wore a red carnation on my cheek,
As if an everlasting bashful blush
Bloomed roses, and camellias caused to peek.
They'd said I seemed a girl, rouged and pink.
My lips with lipstick nature did adorn.
In fact, I'd been embarrassed for to think
So destitute of grit I had been born.
But in my cell, these petals drooped and paled.
A grizzly gray befell me. I grew ashen.
Floridity forsook me. Freshness staled.
Now gloom and pallor dimmed my merry passion.
O'er my vivacity they pulled a pall.
My countenance got skinny, and raw bone
Poked from my shawl as I leant on a wall
To raise on high my solitary groan.
I counted days. Then days to weeks did turn,
And weeks to months, but I remained imprisoned.
Rijarli often came to look and learn,
In white batiste and jet-black cashmere dizened.
She deemed it needful that she thus inspect
To ascertain I hadn't passed away.
In nunnish finery and flounces decked,
Rijarli visited almost each day.
'Twas doubtless she scarce realized her garb
So luscious and luxurious and lavish
Would strike me, how her wimple and her barbe
Would catch my breath, my eyes how they would ravish.
For mine were threadbare and my mantle worn,
My icons and medallions green with tarnish.
My stockings and my petticoats were torn.
My beads and rosaries were bare of varnish.
I was a scarecrow, harpy, horrid hag.
My eyes did burn to see Rijarli dressed
So elegantly while I whiled in rag,
Her heresy so heinously expressed.
This was the lady I myself had named
To be the governess of our new presence,
In Amga, Vavlu's suburb, justly famed,
In forests full of francolins and pheasants.
Who'd have divined Rijarli would revolt,
And start a new religion, sealing me
In dreary dungeon, shut with iron bolt,
Intending nevermore to set me free?
My views were secular, I do acknowledge.
Though abbess, I had pondered only briefly
Eternal verities. In holy college,
I'd studied scientific subjects chiefly.
Immured in darkness, though, I sought relief
By praying fervently, in desperation,
Beseeching rescue from this wimpled thief,
Imploring Heaven's angels for salvation.
I had an iron relic in my pocket,
Composed of little bars like a mosaic.
I drew one narrow bar from out its socket,
A measure I admit was wholly laic.
Upon my bed of stone I honed the bar
Till that I held a dagger in my hand.
Whenas Rijarli I saw from afar,
In shadows lurking, quietly I'd stand,
So that if haply she the door did ope,
To look inside, inspecting all about,
I'd feel my skirt, its drapery I'd grope,
And pull the sharpened makeshift dagger out.
I'd grab her 'round the neck and hold her tight,
Her habit slashing slightly, so to warn
That, if she contemplated for to fight,
I would transfix her where her garb I'd shorn.
Of course, I meant to scare her, not to slay.
I'd force her to conduct me to the gate.
Escaping thus I'd go without delay
To Candle Tower, where Shandra reigned in state.
Denouncing then this treachery, I'd sue
That royalty arrest the ruthless nun
And deal with her as it were due to do,
Now that her usurpation were undone.
Each day Rijarli came but I'd no chance
To seize her with my dagger in my hand.
She merely took a step or cast a glance.
I needed that she stay and still she stand,
So that I could withdraw the iron blade
As she peered in the opposite direction
Nor could perceive what happened in the shade.
I'd in this wise proceed without detection.
At last I had the opportunity,
Emboldened for that she did enter quite.
I'd time to rush her with impunity.
My dagger I would brandish in her sight
So that she'd understand that I was armed.
She'd then obey the orders that I'd give.
Not otherwise would she remain unharmed,
Her decades thus continuing to live.
At any rate, this was the way I dreamt
The duel would develop when I sprang
From darkness out, ferociously unkempt,
Like to a lion, baring fatal fang.
Quite diff'rently in actuality
The confrontation 'twixt us did take place.
Rijarli chortled, in reality,
Contemptuously laughing in my face.
She grabbed me by my wrist. The dagger fell.
My arm she twisted sore behind my back,
Till I was shrieking. Then she rang a bell,
So guards, like executioners in black,
Came running to assist the wicked sister.
Next I was tautly tied both hand and foot.
The hempen ropes would chafe me, they would blister,
And I'd be left in darkness, dankness, soot.
Not kenning me as abbess in disguise,
Rijarli said she'd author a report.
The abbess she would angrily apprise
To vicious villainy I did resort,
Aspiring to affront her in a fury.
She'd fax the abbess the report she wrote,
And have her hale my hulk before a jury.
Undoubtedly to hang me they would vote.
Much later I was told that on the day
The díspatch from Rijarli flittered forth
From out the printer, sliding on its tray,
Inside Defdefa Nunnery, just north
Of city Fwascren, in the west of Ung,
The nuns were puzzled. They were quite perplexed.
They read the bulletin and they were stung.
They scarcely could believe the tainted text.
They'd heard of no legation to the moon,
No nuncia who'd gone to Ufzu newly.
They would report this to the abbess soon
That she take necessary action duly,
But none could find the nun superior.
They searched the abbey's every cell and choir,
Exploring every room's interior.
They telephoned Mecnita to inquire
If peradventure she could there be found.
They checked with every chapel of the order.
There were a dozen scattered all around
The vasty tracts emcompassed by our border,
But nothing by their search did they reveal.
None knew the abbess' whereabouts at all.
How was it thus she did herself conceal?
The sisters were bemused. Yet one did call
The aerospace facility to see
If there was any record of a flight
Made by a nun, and whe'r she did return.
Had they their boarding lists in black and white?
The nuns felt it imprudent to await
Instructions Olezconia would give.
This was emergency. A sister's fate,
The question whether she would die or live,
Hung in the balance. They must act posthaste.
Time of the essence was. They must be quick.
There wasn't e'en a second they could waste.
The hourglass trickled and the clock did tick.
The aerospace directress said by phone
That but a single nun was on their list.
The abbess Olezconia had flown
To Ufzu, but had not returned, they wist.
Their archives absolutely were correct.
A hundred times the names they verified.
There were no errors. Searches would detect.
The abbess was on Mli, 'twas true and tried.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=475556207&size=o
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