SHAMANS, by David Farney


Countless tribes speaking countless tongues

frequent xanthous shores of a long-burning lake.

Come hunters, come nomads, come fishers too —

unlikely neighbors enthralled by songs of shamans

through whose lyrics tribesmen discover discourse.


But soon it seems the shamans sing too loudly —

this common tongue strips mysticism and melody from words

such that fishers and nomads hear only shouting

and prophecies of good harvests while facing full baskets,

begging them ask: “What good are these shamans

with uncallused hands and songs grown harsh?”


“Useful,” shamans chant, “for the coming drought —

which burns field and fish and fauna

just as surely as it withers the soul. Can’t you see?

The lake already burns hotter with high-spiraling flames;

you need us to lead you across, to yon sulfur-less shores.”


The fishers, though, with their steely nets

cast keen eyesight upon fiery water, saying:

“The lake burns no more than it did before.

Indeed red seems blue with louder songs from shamans;

noxious vapors and fires intensify only upon their breath.”


The nomads, what with their wandering ways

say, “Going downstream to avoid a drought makes no sense.

We’ll back-trace rivers to find clearer-seeing shamans —

perhaps they yet sing beautifully, and intelligibly.

But if not, this fiery lake glows to show us home.”


The hunters, though, envision thick herds, as of old.

“We trust the shamans to guide us through fire and flood

toward temperate shores against verdant fields and woods,

toward fewer tribes and constant use of this common tongue.

You fishers and nomads are doomed damnable fools!”

To which the fishers reply:

“If this drought comes upon us, driving inferno higher,

yonder down the shore we’ll join a tribe who

legend says never once has seen the lake afire.

Go, obnoxious hunters and ill-convincing shamans —

we are staying.”


“And so too now are we,” the nomads say, “for fishing with

cold-questioning eyes seems a more sensible plan than

traveling upstream with hearts hoping to find

simple-singing shamans enjoining tribes around a lake,

instead of coaxing from it flames.”



Co-founder of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly,  David’s creative juices have been sorely marginalized by his  employment in medical sales, as well as by the never-ending demands put upon him by his money-pit of a house. But he still enjoys writing  and editing when he can. His poetry has appeared  in Aiofe’s Kiss.

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