Two children, born to two nervous mothers. Bells clamour for attention, alert to every change of breeze; dire warnings of terrible fates announced with tones of dread and certainty.
One grew to believe, to see frightened rainbows hiding in the expected unknown; I am afraid she was right, one said, who can I trust?
One grew to disbelieve; she was wrong, one said. The world is beautiful. I am the danger.
Two warriors meet on the battle field. They exist in the glass globe of an ancient myth. We transmute through the glass, inside this world like clouds swirling in their orb, or into the mind of a hawk in their sky, or simply spat out like pale bone through the ancient atmosphere, settled into the dust of this scene. In this place, we can hear a wooden flute over the sound of the desert wind, the din of the distant city, the swarms of two armies, comrades-in-arms awaiting a charge. The two warriors, the two leaders, stand ahead of these armies, their ranks fanning out across the landscape. Hooves pounding dust, spears slowly rising through invisible molasses as many hands carefully point them ahead. The respective town blacksmiths shaped their iron and their brass, alchemical armor, and all these hand-crafted metals glint with fresh pride in the sun. The leaders gaze at each other from astride their horses. Seeing now, finally, into the eyes of the enemy, the stranger from another land come to invade. A figure floodlit by sun through a mirage. One warrior sees another warrior with piercing eyes, strong arms, grasping a horse’s reins with strength. One sees the moisture in moss-like eyes, the other sees a depth of dark brown iris. They stand before each other as long as they dare, then lead a charge to combat.
Two teenagers, an ocean apart. Stamped and minted with ancient song; bagpiped wails and kebero heartbeats forging a crystallised crust. Hardness growing where softness should be protected. A wilder alibi guarding a locked castle door, where something blooms inside a bell jar.
They have fought well and hard, fought with an intimacy that neither one of them have known before. The aim is not to maim or kill, but to get close and struggle. As the armies tangle, the warriors strike and miss and collide. They dive, plunge, brawl with passion throughout the night, until daybreak. The sun rises around them as they come to a standstill; bloodied, tired, some near dead. Neither army has progressed an inch. Neither leader is willing to go. The warrior with the dark brown irises has to retreat back into their walls— their soldiers rain blood on their home soil, are too weary for sleep. The moss-eyed warrior steps back, and back, until their army spreads out on the top of a hill, overlooking the city they have come to destroy. This is a siege. They have food and water aplenty, the city and the invaders and each army leader are ready for a stand-off. Each ready, at first to fight, and now to wait, for something has paused the furious tumult forward.
The first warrior, pacing inside their city walls, stuck on those moss-green eyes, hopes the siege will never end. The warrior needs a dove, the one rumored to deliver secret messages to whoever your heart calls for. A dove bargained from the town sage, after some negotiating and a few gold coins. The sage waves leathery hands, billowy black robes, and promises one message. This dove will fly across in the dead of night, without flapping, without making a sound, to the other warrior, to deliver one scrawled note on parchment.
Laying In Wait
Two hearts; one opens nocturnal leaves for every second shiver, blooming solitude in the dark. A martian flytrap, accessed via the moon. One closes petals tighter every year, spindles waxed on her own curse. One angles her cheekbone to catch a hollow soul where it alights with feathered feet. The earth and blood tempo drums them forth to the watering hole, at separate times, farcical coincidence. An exhausted lioness, on the trail, picks up the scent of a floral gazelle. Loneliness is throat-sweet, the scene apparent to carcass-observers.
The other warrior receives the note, wakes up to the parchment sticking out from underneath their cot, under their blanket, in their tent.
“Across this field, my eyes have never left yours. Meet me tomorrow morning in the hills outside of town, after the salted lake. beyond the green frog with the red eyes. Near the rock, under the tree. Before the gods.”
The moss-eyed warrior does not question how this note arrived, or who sent it. The morning rises as the warrior steps quickly through the ranks of tents and poles and crates and horses, to the corner of the camp. Squints in the pinks and yellows of dawn.
The clock strikes thirty. Undress yourself, take off the skin that bound your thoughts together. Dig deeper still; hear the cosmic tick in the bones of your ankles. Unlatch your joints, fold them for the shelves. Unwind capillaries you held as hostages for so long. Scrabble with what’s left of your hands. Locate the place where the conscious weight exists, the sentient driver behind the eyes. It’s time to grow past the old ways. Post it, still-beating, to your lover (first class, tracked signature) who engraves a plaque with time and date, awaiting the delivery. A phalanx of our own flanks, the lover easing inside. Slick with confessions of ardour.
The warrior thought of a plan on the spot. All the supplies were burned in the middle of the next night. The army rose in a panic, aghast, their long-held mission derailed, furious, determined to fight until the bitter end. The warrior sighed, feigned a heavy heart, and insisted the army head back home, across the mountains. No long battle, no revenge, no good long fight, as they all had hoped for. In this way, the warrior is rid of their own army. The warrior loves them all, has grown up on this life of battle, but times have changed, their heart now transmuted. The thought of one more day of this ritual of struggle sang out like a curse now, not the gods’ blessing of honor.
The warrior was not born from sea-going stock, nautai, but if they had been they guessed this moment would be like sailing across those long seas and suddenly seeing land. Not as the strong-armed rowing oarsmen on triremes, ready for descent and attack, but as a salty sailor, who had forgotten the land, forgotten the sight of thin green, glowing coast.
The same path back home would not do.
The Return Home
Shall age and experience make the same mistakes? Shall we forge a middle way, a way of moderation? Homeschool our children with homemade puppets; here is how to fear and not fear, how to trust and not trust.
Shall we set them free to search for their own treasure, sack their own cities, raze their homes to the ground?
Watch them from the shadows of the pyres? Atone and sing their wedding vows?
The two warriors met in the dust of midday, that secret spot, a large rock under the shadow of a desert willow, outside the city, halfway between the cheers, bells, and tambourines of the townspeople, and the burnt-out camp. They fell to the ground once their eyes met. What happens when two warriors attempt to tangle in armor? What starts and stops, what clanking, what rusty squeaks and grunts and sighs. What of the places inside where breathe hitches and snags? Pieces of armor fall and unfurl like petals. Halfway between the old town and the temple of the gods, near the rock under a tree, beyond the frog and the salty water, the warriors meet and kneel before each other. All had shifted. The light of this dawn contained the strangest, newest, most brilliant colors, to shine on both their sinewed bodies. Hearts uncovered.
Lindz McLeod is a Scottish poet and writer living in Edinburgh. Zebib K. A. is an Eritrean-American psychiatrist and writer living in New York. They are a queer, interracial couple, who enjoy combining their writing talents from time to time.
Lindz can be found on Twitter @lindzmcleod, and at https://lindzmcleod.co.uk/.
Zebib can be found her on her instagram @pegasusunder, and at https://medium.com/@pegasusunder.
Image via Pixabay