Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "A Night More Full"

This is a followup to the July 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  The donations met the $150 threshold, activating the perk for an extra serial poem.  An audience poll decided on Shahana the Paladin (introduced in "Shine On") as the series.  Enthusiastic donors then provided me with a very tidy stack of prompts, which I turned into three poems.  Finally, the donors voted on which one to publish, "A Night More Full," posted below for your enjoyment.  This poem was prompted by morrigans_eve, janetmiles, laffingkat, the_vulture, and marina_bonomi; and Anonymous.

I have updated the serial poetry page; look under "Path of the Paladins" to see the complete list of poems in this series.  Also available for sponsorship are these two:

"The Canticle of Days" -- 106 lines, Buy It Now = $53
This poem reveals a bit about Shahana's history and training, and what she's doing with Ari now.  It also includes the Canticle of the Traveler -- which is written in rhymed, metered couplets -- tucked inside the free verse poem.

"To the Five Roads" -- 155 lines, $77.50
Shahana and Ari pause in their travels to restore an abandoned roadside shrine. This poem reveals a little more about Shahana's past, how she became a paladin and what she did.


A Night More Full


Shahana lay on her back,
looking up at the stars
scattered like clear gems
on the sky's black cloak.
She had put off her armor,
and now her plain linen clothes
were getting damp with dew.
She didn't care.
The night seemed far more full
of darkness than stars.

Shahana missed her goddess
with a deep, fierce ache:
not the power that Gailah granted,
but the person, the shining Lady
that Shahana served.

The paladin cleared her mind
and turned her thoughts to prayer,
lofted toward a distant heaven:
I know You can hear me, my Lady.
I just miss hearing Your voice in return.
I miss seeing Your face in my dreams,
or in the bright temple
where my world meets Yours. 
I miss Your touch
.

These days, the contact between them
was far more limited, because
goddess and paladins alike had to hoard
what power they could gather
for when it would be needed the most.
Shahana could still feel Gailah's presence
in her heart, warm as a banked hearthfire,
but the goddess' directives came now
as hints and intuition rather than words.
Her touch came as a kiss of wind
or a beam of sun, not the embrace
of long arms and white-fingered hands.

Shahana shifted to loyalty and gratitude,
renewing pledges made long ago.
My Lady, I want You to know
that I will never leave You.
I will do Your work in this world.
I will attend to matters of purity,
mercy, and protection.
I cherish what magic remains to me.
I give thanks that You stand by us
who chose to stand by You
.

Shahana could not help but recall
her outrage at the gall of the war-priests
and the arrogance of Gorrein
in declaring war on his own sister.
But a pantheon was a pot of politics,
as much as any court in the land,
and so the campaign went forth.

Shahana had fought valiantly,
but by the time her unit reached the city,
the last battle was over and done.
She arrived to find nothing but rubble
left of the bright temple,
and the sobbing bloody goddess
crouched beside the altar,
and a scatter of shocked paladins
standing around staring.
One of them had walked away
even as Shahana approached.
Others might desert in such a time,
but it was not in her to do the same.

It had been Shahana who stepped forward,
snapping the white velvet cloak from her shoulders
to cover Gailah in the warm fragrant folds.
"Oh, my Lady, we will never leave You," she swore,
and that stirred the others to action.
The remaining paladins drew near
and knelt to renew their vows.
"Go back to Your heavenly realm
and seek a safe place there,"
Shahana said to Gailah.
"We will hide ourselves in this world
until we grow strong enough to rebuild."

Now Shahana sighed, stargazing,
praying her heart out to a distant goddess.
Sometimes she could keep these memories
tucked away in a trunk, deep in her mind --
but on nights like tonight they spilled forth
to trouble her all over again.

My Lady, let it be enough for you
that my faith remains as bright as the Guidestar,
Shahana prayed, stroking the damp grass.
Whatsoever power is left to me,
I will put to use as best I can.
Whatsoever is given into my care,
I will tend to the best of my ability
.

"Shahana?  Are you still out here?"
Ari's girlish voice floated up the hill.

"I am here," said Shahana.
Ari hiked up the shallow slope to her.
"The soup is ready," said Ari.
"Come and eat, Shahana."

"Coming," said Shahana.
Ari brushed at the dew-wet clothes.
"You'll catch cold like that," she fussed,
and wrapped her shabby cloak
around Shahana's shoulders.

As they turned toward their camp,
the breeze rose, stirring the grass
and brushing Shahana's hair from her face.
Almost it reminded her of Gailah,
but no, surely it was only the wind --
even such ghostly caresses were rare now.

"What was that?" Ari asked,
wide-eyed and breathless.

Shahana stretched out her awareness,
and there, glimmering like starlight on water,
was the faint sense of her goddess.
Pulling the younger woman close, she said,
"Such is Gailah's grace upon us in these days.
She touches us as She may, and we give thanks."

Together they walked down the hill
toward the camp and the fire and supper,
and now the night seemed
more full of stars than darkness.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, writing
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