Stranger in the Town

A formal experiment in epic poetry,
with sensibilities spanning whole stretch
of known time. To come in a series.

Proetry
Fictional poetry
Epic poetry in a new form
This series will keep coming

 

When I pull into the tavern that is more a tool shed
with tables and benches like the one my grandfather had
where he taught me to wield tools as tools and weapons
a thousand years ago when the human face
was less evolved and more expressive of true emotions,
out of the long winding ways and the endless winter winds and snows,
steaming like my horse foaming at the mouth
and rubbing my unglobed hands together,
the one-eyed man taking black-blood bottles from the counter
shifts his what-should-have-been-the-left eye from me
and says in an unknown language accenting every syllable
equally as foreign tongues do and care, in a tone
that needs no language to get the message across to the mark:
“Ech dot kothari che ni det.”
Did he press a button or pull a string to soul a puppet show?
All the eyes there all at once shoot at me
like long shafts of light directed to me in an opera.

“We don’t serve sons of bitches here.” That’s from the left.
Another voice, deep as hell’s grumble under your feet, dry as a slough.
The bottle gurgles as the dry-blood wine jumps into a tall tumbler.
My steps freeze and my hands stop rubbing.
“I don’t say that.” He explains, as he turns holding the frothing tumbler by the ear
without looking at me but seeing, but revealing a face
with which evolution has stepped back—one-eyed, with the ball
protruding like an eyed probe, the left side where you would expect
another eye telling the story rather of a hole in the wall
mortared and troweled badly than something
that has anything to do with a human face, ugly though as can be.
A rather huge hagstone nose and a pair of fleshy lips under it
easily taking the shapes of the words pouring out of them.
His probably kind translation carries the breath
of an original hate and feels less like a translation,
and this and how he comes across seem to impress
on anybody who sees him the scripture of his life
whose sole commandment is to hate and hate around.

Do they have the same face? Oh! Do I look at them differently
from how they look at me? I have the same eyes?
Thoughts are invisible but they do concrete magic
like throwing yourself off the cliff or hole a breast
to traffic a soul across the border. I am often too numb
for a warrior, my war teacher told me I would better throw
my brains away to the dogs and pour wine into the skull
than momentarily stiffen in the middle of a battle
while I should be mowing heads like on a grassland.

He raises the restless crystal to his lips and empties it
in a gulp that makes a lot of noise down its course.
When the left-eyed tender walks to and stands on his left
they are more a single monster split in half on a jigsaw board.
“Tu-e pet siot kothari ata wang mal penture khrose,”1 the drinker barks
in his coolest voice as his half drops an oily leg on the table
and makes another crystal trilling with life
and chews his words like cud before he swallows the fluid,
“Ech wech khothari che det, et du pist wang.”2

The right half turns and looks at me with his well-deep eye
that would wrest the breath from a less hardy heart,
and says with a bad smile, “He says he takes sons of bitches
on a windy day.”
My two eyes ray into the only eye he has for a steady moment,
enough to roil its well and before long he blinks
and says with a less bad smile, “That’s not my word.”

My fat coins gong when they hit the hewn top
of the coarse unplaned pine counter, and that suspends
the disbelief of the one-eyed keeper for now, whose wine-stained
thinned-down fingers with the lines on the flats rubbed off
by handling coins too long falter in the drag of the emotion
before he has to gather himself to show me the way.

 

Unwanted notes:
These notes are not meant for reading.
[1] A left-eye can accept a son of a bitch at a high price on stormy days.
[2] I will accept a son of a bitch here, if you pay high.

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