H the Shadow, Chapter I


H, apprentice to a trader,
sailed to the capital
and, on the wharf, behind
a heavy cargo of lava,

learned that mischief
was better than a salary
of four hundred pounds
a year and a white falcon.


He was oiled, patient,
and fierce. Count T took
interest. H’s comeliness
was not to be despised,

so on the national holiday
of making love, wrestling,
and horse-fighting, he
induced H to accompany him.


During that ride, the lonely
valley went on and on, and
H’s eyes wandered to
the count’s hairy breast.

His shirt was off, and there
rested upon him the idle
air of the big tired
animal in a gray seal coat.


H threw his arms about
the fellow thick as
a bullock. And the Count
laughed in derision.

Between the fells and
the sea, who could bind
that island of a man like
a rib pulled from the earth?


The count’s silver necklace
broke, and H came. “Keep it,”
said the count. The sun’s
dull red glow on the waters

of the lake was a door.
H said, “Take it back, or
I will follow you with
a blade as far as the dome.”


The bluster of murder
lay like a rag between
adversaries. The veins on
H’s brow were now purple,

and the count took him
to the tent and, bearded
as a goat, behind him
rode for three August days.


Iron will was reason enough
the marriage be delayed
no longer. The count said,
“Strange that I should

prefer the stink of fish
to the perfumes of
civilization.” H’s face
grew white. The count shrugged.


Continue to Book I, Chapter II

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