The horse approaches through the drifting haze.
As she waits, her arms lift high the skull,
An offering for the rite of death in season.
Her heart all heavy, grave with abject sorrow
She yearns for poison and to disappear
Into the graveyard out beyond the willows.
Riderless, the horse comes from the willows
Its master gone, just like the wandering haze,
His body on the pyre all disappeared,
Nothing left of him, except the skull.
Horse and maiden nuzzle, each in sorrow,
Only death waits now, an open season.
Maiden, horse and skull ride for a season
Easing pain by chewing bark from willows.
A little food is given for their sorrow,
From villagers emerging from the haze,
But they’re reviled by smell of death and skull,
Their good deeds soon to disappear.
Mist of autumn’s gradual disappearance
Replaced by frost, a hoary winter season,
Cold reaches in and touches bones, while skull
Tied to the master’s horse is brushed by willows,
Each brush eroding bone dust, just like haze,
And haze condenses tears on face of sorrow.
Into a cave the maiden takes her sorrow
Resolved at last by death to disappear
Talks to the horse through fire’s smoky haze.
“I cannot linger here another season
I‘ll fashion a spear for death from some old willow
And kiss the face of death in Yorik’s skull.”
She sharpens spear point, closely watched by skull,
Each shaving of the wood draws down her sorrow,
Weeping tears of grief she pares the willow
Till grief replaced by courage, disappears.
She plunges spear deep in her chest, no season
Of grief is left, not even clouds of haze.
Now two skulls lie among the hazy rocks.
There is no more a season for their sorrow,
Disappeared the spear point sprouts new willow.
Christine Valentine writes poetry and non-fiction and is published in many anthologies including Tipton Poetry Journal, High Plains Register, Crazy Woman Creek – women re-write the American West, and The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry. She is editor for the WyoPoets’ Newsletter. Chris came to the West from England in 1964. She lives in Montana and worked for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe for 25 yrs.