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    AC Benus
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Demon Dream - 5. More than fueling our bellies

.

While Tarogo reclined,

Re-hearing this old tale

He had known as a boy,

He thought this opening

Of the story gruesome

And perhaps a local

Variance on the theme.

All he knew was of how

The clever young rabbit,

For love of the old man,

Got Badger’s punishment.

Rabbit's revenge he knew.

The two visitors felt

At ease and comfortable,

While under them, the wood

Flooring around the hearth

Brought heat from the embers

All through their bodies.

For, although it was June,

Mount Adatara’s heights

Sent down the craggy slopes

Untimely chilly air

From the higher heavens

To the meadows and plains

Encircling its base.

Yukei relaxed, but watched

The widow at her work.

The process intrigued him,

For she’d follow the same

Procession of movements

Time after time again.

Each action was unique,

An individual,

And discrete from those that

Came before and after;

Each inducing the grace

Of dexterous virtue

Inborn to it alone.

He wondered why people

Couldn’t behave the same,

Selecting the right move

To apply at the right

Time without the malice,

Often arbitrary,

And applied with just force

Enough to reach its goal.

“You do that beautifully,”

He heard himself tell her.

A glance at Tarogo

By the old lady proved

That man’s eyes were napping.

Puzzled, she asked the lord,

“Sir? What is it you mean?”

“It’s your spinning I mean;

It’s done with deliberate

Grace in every movement.”

He added, “I feel it.”

Her reply was humble:

“But it’s just what I do.

I don’t think about it.”

Yukei nearly sang back,

“Yet that is the reason

Your spinning has become

Artless and beautiful;

Become part of your ways,

As natural for you

As the way you breathe, or

Find a stride when you walk.”

He paused, wondering if

She could follow his thought.

“You,” he went on, “have found

A kind of peace in what

Your hands can make for you.”

She scoffed silently then,

‘All my hands have made are

Calluses for my hands.’

She rubbed her right thumb o’er

The hard yellow skin corn

Grown dead in her right palm.

These were something she thought

The man in front of her

Would never know about.

“There’s no joy in this, sir.”

She dared to raise her eyes.

“I’m too old to feel love,

Or likewise to feel hate,

For the things I must do.”

She half-expected her

Irreverent words would

Stir ire in the man.

But he merely remained

As calm as he had been

For the entire time.

Conscious now of staring,

She returned to her work.

Once her rhythm was back,

Yukei said, “Life is more

Than fueling our bellies.

What good is existence

If it finds no place home?

For every animal

And, yea, for every leaf

Has a part within it;

That perfect place where it

Finds that it belongs, and

Nothing in life’s rhythm,

Or in life’s dying can

Forget from whence it came”—

His gaze sank to the floor

—“Except mankind, who feels

His definitive loss

As inexplicable

Longing, which churns over,

And over until it

Is able to assume

A shape – much like your yarn –

That he only thinks has

Value for his efforts.

And if lucky, if rich,

He pays other people

To do the job of life,

And they, like your flax, get

Spun into one long line

Of lumpy, soulless men.

They who fear death, I say,

Are the ones who’ve never

Lived for any others.

For, to the ones to whom

Death means the reunion

Of themselves – along with

All-receiving Nature –

They know death a kindness

To accept when it comes.”

He glanced up to her with

Enthusiastic eyes.

She replied demurly,

“But, forgive me, sir, if

I comment too sharply,

But I’ve never had time

To enjoy much of life.”

“Well, then,’ he said, “forgive

My rude tongue and bluntness:

That means you’ve never lived.”

His bright eyes would not leave

Her face, and he hoped she

Had seen what he had meant.

For in his mind he knew

It was never too late

To start enlightened life.

But, the old woman’s thoughts

Choked on her bitterness.

Who was he? A noble,

Reared on a coddled life

Of staid, urbane studies

To tell her – a woman

Born to toil and to sweat –

That she didn’t know what

It meant to be alive.

‘If only,’ she then thought,

‘We two could trade places,

He’d know what life’s about.’

As deferentially

As her rancor would let,

She said, “I work to eat.”

He responded slowly,

Realizing too late

How his jovial tone

Might have antagonized,

Although not meaning to.

More contritely, he said,

“I know our allotment

Upon this world has been

A very different one.

Mine born to be ‘master,’

Though not a distinction

I sought or exploited.

From you I claim no want,

Except for some knowledge.

For once I was like you,

In at least one regard,

And lonely as you now.

I grew up with no friends,

And my books taught me how

To expel my own fear

When it was not called for;

But what I sought in them,

And what I could not find,

Was the essence of me.

I could not find myself.

How did I fit into

The universe ‘round me? –

What purpose did all the

Chaos around me serve?

The moment I found it,

I forgot the question.

Forgot I’d once not known.”

His smile was back in place,

This time, a kinder one.

“Know, my good woman, that

The moon revolves for you.

The sun rises and falls

For you in the same way.

And every blade of grass

Grows in your eyes alone.

Because, as you perceive

everything in this world,

So it has been and is.

Be happy, and all that

You encounter will be

Every bit as happy.

Tranquility finds rest

In knowing this supreme.

Believe this is as sure

As your forthcoming death.”

Yukei glowed in the light,

And more than the light could,

For his whole presence moved

With a thousand movements,

Each one shot and quickly

Counterbalanced by force

From an opposing one.

All gathered in the strength,

Lit by the firelight,

Of a man at perfect

Ease with himself, and All.

Tarogo lay asleep.

The old one saw and heard,

But had nothing to say;

Words could no longer speak

A single thing for her.

What she most desired

Was for her guests’ comfort.

With that as an excuse,

She clambered to her feet,

Saying, “Masters, please sleep.

And when the morning comes,

I will make us breakfast.

Only”—she cautioned well,

Regarding the awake

Tarogo on the mat—

“Promise me while I’m gone,

You’ll not open that door.”

The men looked where pointed.

Yukei held her frank eyes,

Then nobly replying,

“I won’t, if that’s your wish.”

She glanced to Tarogo.

“I will not either,” he

Affirmed quite huffily.

“Good.” Her smile was relieved,

For at that moment she

Had what she hadn’t had

For a long time – the hope

They wouldn’t betray her

And renounce their promise.

Outside, the old woman

Walked on the compressed earth

To the clearing’s boundary.

She bent to pick up twigs,

And other fuel supplies,

Somehow feeling content.

Within her head she heard

The words Yukei had said.

‘Within my eyes alone

Are these troubles of mine.’

She plucked a broken stick.

‘Be happy, and all that

You encounter will be

Just as filled with that joy.’

She paused, catching a glance

Of her own hand at work.

In the light of the moon,

The other hand came up

And spread wrinkled fingers

Over their counterparts.

Both hands glowed and now seemed

As alive as Yukei

Had been in the firelight.

Here she contemplated:

‘I have the chance to live

Life in a better way.’

She caressed her arms and

Lifted them in the air.

To her came well-being,

And there, under the moon,

Did she begin to dance.

One foot gracefully stepped

In front of the other,

And through her feet, up came

The presence of the Earth.

Within, tranquility

Fused form with her movements.

Footsteps, heartbeats became

One with the larger part

Of the un-trying part

That comes from existence.

Serenity moved her;

Grace not imitated,

But in her metamorphed

To remembrance of All.

 

 

_

Copyright © 2021 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Why am I plagued with apprehension? Surely the old woman will go to bed, and the men will rise in the morning? Will they be so foolish as to open the forbidden door? And what if something  quite unusual is afoot in this lonely cottage? 

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

35 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

Why am I plagued with apprehension? Surely the old woman will go to bed, and the men will rise in the morning? Will they be so foolish as to open the forbidden door? And what if something  quite unusual is afoot in this lonely cottage? 

What if, my friend. What if? I think Tarogo asked himself a similar question earlier in the evening. 

Only one more installment to go, Parker. And there is nothing the woman would like better than to go to be still happy with her self-discovery

Edited by AC Benus
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Their conversation was good, sparking the old woman’s change of mindset. Her moonlit dance at the end was beautiful. Now I’m worried that Tarogo will open the door...

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7 hours ago, headtransplant said:

Their conversation was good, sparking the old woman’s change of mindset. Her moonlit dance at the end was beautiful. Now I’m worried that Tarogo will open the door...

Thank you, headtransplant! The dance is my favorite part of the poem. I'm very happy you singled it out for mention :)

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