by Eric Rosenbloom
copyright 1999

His attack, an act of love he thought,
Left her sobbing in a painful collapse.
Songs of love so recent on his lips,
The music of his flute still ringing,
Then the sight beneath the trees
Of her beauty stooped to gather nuts—
He saw her there and longed to lift her
Out of that task, into his song,
A shepherd’s dream of leisured heaven.
He did, and she proved his ardor
As if a wild beast had set upon her,
Not the gentle herdsman in his praise,
But he was stronger, and prevailing,
Taking what he needed: a child
Awkwardly wielding the long branch
To knock the chestnuts from their tree
And lightly dancing in the roots and bushes
Collecting the fallen fruit.

Did he notice the garments he tore,
The soft pattern woven in the collar,
The flashes of dyed thread slipped in the weave?
In his memory he puts flowers in her hair—
Did he see the blooms so rare in winter
That fell when she ran from him,
The strands of wheat saved from the harvest
Around which the garland was woven?
What shoes did she have for the chill ground,
For now she has none.

He sings to his sheep of his sin,
His song of her forgiving him,
His muse, his memory.

She finds the basket, her broken sandals,
And weeps again for the ring of wheat
And the tiny blooms it held
Around her head like a coronet.
A child’s whimsy had kept them
To adorn herself in the chill air
For her first setting out alone
Beneath the trees where the nuts grow.
Now a different child, less, less—
She picks up her garland
And buries it under the dirt
Where the shepherd caught her and held her down
For his act of alchemical extraction,
Injection of terror and pain,
His murder of what he sought,
What she thought was hers forever.

And life resumed its daily journey,
The seasonal cycles swept them up again,
A dry nugget of hate and distrust in her heart
All that she carried into the new life.
And the stems of wheat that golden stretched
Above the field’s summer flowers
Sang of a child’s love of the sun,
And that was a song she could hear.

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