Written on the Reverse of an Antique Gospel
When they reached the foot of the mountain,
the road unrolled itself–
ribboning over the blue grass
between thirteen darkly purple trees
and the piles of leaves
sighing around their roots.
The cloud crept down after them,
hooking itself to the end of the road
so that, as the road rolled up behind,
the cloud followed.
At the first stream,
the prince emptied his boots of the grey
dust of the mountain,
turning the water red.
The maiden’s lavender hair
hummed the music to the words
printed on the skin of her ear
At the first bridge the maiden
cut one lock of her hair.
At the castle, the women
wove the brocade,
pricking their fingers
before shuttling each thirteenth thread
to be sure the cloth would know the route
through the wedding ring.
The king never slept.
The queen never woke.
The doctor sewed his own wounds
over and over.
The wound in the maiden’s fist
stopped bleeding at the thirteenth bridge.
dropped over the side of the bridge upstream,
the bandage became a copper fish.
The king unbraided his beard,
and the white snake
slid along the blue stone floors.
each of the rushlights dimmed as it passed.
Pale pink flowers sprang up through the snow
in a carpet the shape of a child.
The snake went blind.
The queen shivered in her sleep.
The king shut his eyes.
There was a bridge at the fourteenth ford,
but the copper trout was waiting
to carry the travelers across.
The white snake tied itself
into a turk’s-head knot.
The page picked up the silver knot
winking from the floor in the morning light,
strung it on his belt for a buckle.
Later, the cook noticed
He watched the maiden’s braid
swing against her knees.
The gown she had stolen from the bird
slid from one shoulder.
The moon curved its light
over one shoulder blade.
His hand followed.
Deep in the walls of the castle,
the king’s cry seeps into the mortar.
The cloud comes for him.
Devon Miller-Duggan has had poems in Rattle, Shenandoah, Margie, Christianity and Literature, The Indiana Review, Harpur Palate, The Hollins Critic, and a longish list of really little magazines. She’s won an Academy of American Poets Prize, a fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts, an editor’s prize in Margie, and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She teaches for the Department of English at the University of Delaware. Her first book, Pinning the Bird to the Wall, appeared from Tres Chicas Books in November 2008.