(Editor’s note: I originally wrote this poem for a class in medieval literature. I have received permission from the professor to publish it here. Enjoy.)
“So this is how it was back then?” he asked her with special kindness.
“Yes. Before the hills burned and the majesties of the castles were
vanquished into barbarism. Before the great darkness
illuminated our hatred for one another, not out of wanting more,
but only wanting. Yes, this is how it was,” she told him.
The story I’m about to tell you is true to the tiniest factual detail. It is a story of love,
between two people and themselves
and their surroundings. This is not a love story solely of shallow human love
but of the special kind that can exist only when time, place
pomp and circumstance all are brought to coincide.
He stared delicately at her, careful not to stare too zealously.
He was an aspiring young duke who, for the most part, was confined by his rank
not emboldened by it as was so often the case
Or at least, limited everywhere else. Here, he was free to be captivated by her.
She on the other hand, was the noblest of seven daughters
to a peasant. She knew nothing
of rank or right because all her life was spent defending her younger sisters
sometimes unsuccessfully as we know was so often the case.
They stood together, on a hill overlooking a field
in Spain. A field like any other
except that in those days it wasn’t. In those days it was green
while the fields around the country were dead, burned
like the millions in castles across what is modern day Europe.
Everything had been burned.
Castles made of noble stone had been scarred with human ashes,
sometimes inside the castles as the dying tried to destroy the dead,
sometimes on the outsides as the catapults launched the bodies
falling short, hitting the wall, falling onto the attacker’s own troops.
Geometry had a long way to go back then.
But so did love. Somewhere on a field where it doesn’t rain in Spain
except when it does, we find our hero and our heroine.
He is of noble birth, seven generations engraved with the mark of aristocracy
But lacking zeal for power. She, meanwhile is of humble birth
but yearns simply for a quiet spot to rule on her own.
“Are you sure you want this particular land?” he asks.
“Though beautifully and certainly unique, it lacks any kind of tree.
There are no fruits to pick for you labors of settling here. No wood
to build a house, no hill to dig your way into. In every way this land is flat
except for the small creek running along its edge. Yet you would still desire it?”
“Noble sir,” she confesses,
“I lack the type of ambition of someone trying to build halls held high
by story-tall stones. I lack interest in the material, for material is the way to corruption.
I lack ambition for resources, for as one builds excess, so also one builds enemies
who wish to take it. I wish for no war. Living is hard enough.”
“Yet even those who call upon peace find war,” he torts,
“True peace, though a noble ambition, is scarcely ever possible. People always wish
to have others as their subjects, even when those subjects can offer them nothing.
How wouldst thou defend thyself against those from far lands who want
simply what others have?”
“My defense is none of your concern,” she replies.
“Surely you will not take this as a comment of disrespect. I am most honored
by your presence and your time. But I am strong, and my father
though ailing, is ripe with the fervor of life when it is needed most.
He acquiesces, promising to fulfill her desire for the land she has requested.
It belongs to her family seven weeks later. Five humble acres, hidden by a hill,
empty grassland somewhere in Spain where nobody can know
unless they already do. Unless their ancestors already did.
It is a few weeks later and he has returned to call upon her.
She is his age, or thereabouts. Her little family has set up camp
hidden among the hills by the grasslands from the crusades waging around them.
When someone comes with ill intent, she deliberately entrances them. Her wit, her kindness
her special beauty have the power to neutralize nations as they travel through hers.
She uses her gifts of wit and intellect
only to infuriate and dodge him. When he remarks playfully,
she responds with one-word answers. When he pokes fun
she lets his jokes stand without retort.
Yet our hero knows as all men do that something powerful is at work in her.
He can see beyond her selective passivity
because he and his family have given hers this land. He has seen
her family transform what was once grassy and of little appeal
into a fantastic, well-run estate.
And with her being the lone survivor of the plague that is of working health,
he knows it is mostly her who has done this.
Not in the way you would likely think, but in the way of a nobleman:
he offers to stick around and help.
So ends part 1 of Independent.