AMBITION, PURPOSE, OUTCOME



AMBITION, PURPOSE, OUTCOME, by  Charles Saplak:

DAYBREAK OF THE APPOINTED DAY:

And yet another soldier will beseech The Dragon
for his vision; a timeward glimpse of truth,
a precious deep thought chosen for him and him alone.
Light’s long arrows silently fly,
Chip the mountainside free from night’s dark,
Yet Sir Michael has been awake for hours,
beneath his coarse woolen blanket,
listening to the sounds of the mountains.
Wet mist caresses the stony ‘scape,
places a chill within the soldier,
a touch like the hand of death –-
a beckoning tap he has often imagined.

Sir Michael maintains his fast,
drinks nothing but clear water
from a skin he has carried up this mountain with him,
then he does something he has rarely done:
he unpacks a clean cloth; he bathes.
The water is so cold his flesh bumps,
his teeth chatter, his lips tinge with blue.

He must be pure to go before the spirit;
must be clean to request this boon.

Most supplicants The Dragon deigns never to answer.

He must be found worthy.

Sir Michael is a man of many days, his hair is graying,
his skin is a map of scars,
a history book of nameless battles.
He has spent many nights staring into fires
remembering all which is lost to him.
He has awakened to many an impending fight,
greeted many sunrises as his possible last.
Has awakened many times exhausted, wounded, lying
amidst stinking heaps of the newly dead.
He has awakened caked with blood, his and others.
He has awakened to find arrows lodged within him.
He has awakened in the limp arms of those he’s killed.

And his spirit suffers to its core.
Veins of despair and guilt bleed unstopped.

ASCENT:

His exegete, rugged and ancient hermit,
appears from the scrubby brush and greets him.
Sir Michael knows not whether to laugh or cry.
His guide is a gnome, not more than three feet tall,
with face more craggy than the mountain’s stone face.
He wears a bearskin cloak and carries a staff of ash.
He grins, revealing a rank of crooked teeth;
bright eyes twinkle within deep, dark sockets.

He says nothing, but gestures up the mountain’s path
with his staff…. Thus, the trek begins.

Sir Michael climbs with strength, keeps the clambering
gnome in sight, tries to keep his thoughts upon the
Most Holy Dragon, Eldritch Wurm, Older than Words,
Earth, or Time, Igniter of the First Flame.

Should Sir Michael be found worthy, He-Of-Scale will reward
him with a vision bright as fire, a beacon for his
thoughts and his days, a Vision of Result….

But the knight’s thoughts wander
ascending to the bone cave,
something occurs to this old soldier:
this climb is like life, with its turns and scrappling
rock and jagged hangs, its moments of uncertainty,
and in the perspective of one who climbs so high,
petty lands resolve themselves into placid patchwork.

Sir Michael longs for something new,
carries a desire as ungraspable
as the fog in the valleys below.
Could there be a greater knight?  Could he be King?
Is he the one for whom all soldiers long?
And his sword, so often the drinker of life,
the scalpel which removed heads from armies,
heads from necks, fathers from sons, is this sword
the needle to stitch back a splintered world?

As shade claims the landscape, Sir Michael attains the
summit, and stands before his guide.
Rugged hermit gestures the soldier to kneel,
gestures for him to bow his head, points out the
entrance to the Cave of Skull with crooked finger,
Steely glint within his eyes, a knowing pity grin….

NIGHT, AND VISION:

At first he cannot see it;
thinks it just a cave in the mountaintop; then
it is revealed as the sun touches the far mountains.
Sir Michael sees the arched brow, the time-worn eye
sockets, the welcoming arch of sword-sharp teeth….

At the exact moment the sun dips below the horizon
Sir Michael stoops to enter the cave of the skull.
Once inside he knows that this was indeed A God;
He feels the surge of magic herein
A dome of thought, a bone lens of dreams,
Crux of possibilities, ivory cathedral where all pasts are remembered and all futures can be
imagined,
Channel of time’s dark rivers,
Home of echoed eyes through which all presents are watched;
Strange stars and secret seas, blood red magma mountains, crystalline blue castles of ice–-
such distant glimpses interest Sir Michael not.

This night it is his own future he wishes to see.

Sir Michael curls down on the soil floor, draws his cloak,
hears the wind howl, sees stars creep past the sutures,
lies awake and questions all, his mind churning….

And yet at last he sleeps -—
receives the far dream, the thought beneath the stars,
the map of his ambition, his endeavor….

A distant field he sees,
site of some great battle,
arrows decorating skeletons like thorns,
strewn about are broken spears, shattered helms,
tarnished greaves and hacquetons still tied around
bleached bones by straps of rotting leather.

And then Sir Michael feels the jolt of recognition:
One assembly of bleaching bones wears his armor, and
Within that skeleton’s loosened grasp is his sword,
lying abandoned and rusting….
This soldier recognizes himself —
blood-stained spear lodged within his ribcage, and
scratching, scrabbling, curled
within his emptied skull, nestled warmly,
a field mouse sleeps, and dreams….

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Charles M. Saplak lives in Virginia and works for a utility company.  He’s published stories and poems in numerous venues.  When not writing he’s usually gardening or woodworking.
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