The King of Hell’s Daughter- Jabberwocky Volume 3

Published in Jabberwocky Volume III. Honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008.

Mercy Tarot Card Illustration by Shirl SazynskiThe King of Hell’s Daughter

To write a poem about him would be an obscenity,
she thinks
but still she does it in her way
less often, now, of late

Her small, sharp-angled feet tread down
the flagstones of a forgotten corridor, then stair
a winding snake which does not sink to unplunged depths but
closest to his home

Sometimes there is a weak current where the air blows fresh
and cool instead
when the tang of fire blossoms can be forgot
for a faint, foreign whiff of grass, good loam
and narcissus in the spring
—this, her only mercy
is no mercy
and done for old times’ sake

the unseen door obeys her lips and gesture
this piece of untaught sortilege
her kind were born to know

No light comes to this cell
save from where his wings once were, a diffuse glow;
it does not matter. He lost that sense long ago.
but still she dims the lamp, lays it down with a small scrape
along with the implements of his freedom —
blindfold woven from the very hair of night
from the hydra’s fangs, her needles
a box of pinions he should recognize
barred bright as a hawk — (she keeps them to forget)
though he longer has tongue to confess
his greatest crime of all

the shackles, caked with rust might crumble
at a struggle (should he remember how)
or made of less
than the craftiest deception,
of a weaker stuff
than hate
gently she fingers the ruin of his back
rewarded by a shudder of recognition
though he does not lift his head, nor lean into her touch
as once he might

the hair, like summer, has grown long again since her last visit;
it must sting where it falls
she brushes it aside to seek a loose, bleached splinter
jutting low between his shoulder-blades
remembering its scent
a taste of heights and colors she must never seek
soft as zephyrs against her tawny breast.
and the wings which sheltered her in secret
bore her up to see
the glory of the stars at night.
Hidden in a blank of cloud they danced and listened
to the song, ten-thousand miles past her kingdom
(this heaven’s last joke).

A small gasp as she plucks it, the only sound he’ll make —

And she considers
freedom —

the hollows of his ribs before her, the knotted column of his throat —
a single stroke —

but, no.

She draws the splinter ‘cross her hand then lays that hands upon his cheek
one side of his face a travesty, the other half preserved
though the blue of his eye has since diminished
from a winter’s midnight

she solemnly brings that hand to his dry lips and bids him drink
her firey blood and see once more
her silhouette
the wonder of caverns deep
of silent pools, lush gardens of chrysolite and jade
—at this he always weeps —
and at this, her expression will not change
kissing, now, the ruined half of his lips

his tears she gathers in a vial
(she never tells him this)
one day to pour into the King of Heaven’s wine
mixed in with her own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>