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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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The Virgin Spring 

 

 

 

Bridge Keeper: I hear what I want to hear and see what I want to see.

I hear what men whisper in secret and see what they think no one sees.

You can hear for yourself, if you wish. Just listen!

Servant Girl: What thunders outside?

Bridge Keeper: Three dead men riding north.

Ingmar Bergman

 

I stood outside the red Swedish

worker’s cottage in the afternoon quiet

the wind in the trees, the soft report

imagined or real, something greater, godly

the giddy leaves, wild strawberries

ripening, a pretty woman

smiled as she cycled past

the cedar bench, our wine and salad

to the church, the fair

where graduates jaunt their nautical caps

and little girls sing “glad sommar”

with hand-drawn cards on the path to your house

 

but the servant girl in the smoky light

blowing fire in the rough planked kitchen

invoking Odin, her hatred fierce

furtive, petulant

trapped in the toad

in the hollow of the bread

for the fairy tale daughter

who will travel to chapel

 

blond hair brushed a hundred stokes

tressing her neck and fur-trimmed cape

following custom with candles for the Virgin

side-saddle on the slow white mare

in late spring down the forest path

to the goat herders who see her first –

the guttural mute and callow boy

and the clever one with the mouth harp –

the brothers who flatter her and share her bread

then turn on her and tear her silk

and the earth that swallows her screams

 

the servant girl in the bushes believing

the day she conjured her death, he did it

the night pierced by the father’s wail

“God you saw it, you allowed it”

his daughter cloven, the birch tree rent

to cleanse, absolve

the butcher’s knife exacting the craven

the pleading boy

flung to his death

 

on this June day in Norrkoping

I prayed for this completion

my dark sob carried by the wind

the servant girl confessing to the father

forgiven, the earth summoned

blooming the cleansing

virgin spring.

 

             -Ken Massicotte

  
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