I heard the faintest whisper
Past where the briars grow
Woven ’round the thickets,
Where it is not wise to go
And I counted ‘pon my fingers
(Callused from battles long away)
The notes I heard from over
The forest’s sharp-toothed gate
I can’t recall the words
(If any had e’er passed)
But so well I knew that dirge
From long nights, devoid of rest
Perhaps it spoke of triumphs,
now lost in forgotten tongues
or perhaps of gravest omens;
unlucky stars still yet to come
So cautiously, I stepped, you see
Minding endless, vines and thorns;
And though it caused great pain to me
(In the nicking of my arms)
I pushed and struggled heedless,
Of my clothing growing red
And, at last, mine eyes opened
Relieved to still have breath
And now the notes all sounded clearer
(Though still no words were spoke aloud)
No true dirge I’d come to find here
But a sharp melancholy sound.
The chorus was a statue, broken
From which sung when blew the air
‘Twas of a knight once proud and noble;
into a little font he stared.
Just what evil had he fought off,
When the marble shone like new-
And what battles did he triumph?
What victories did he hold true?
I confess I know so little
’bout the sentry and where he stood…
Save for what wended through my reveries
As I sat, weary, aloof.
Had he dragons fought, victorious?
(But where are dragons wont to roam?)
And did he bravely once defend
Those who once sat upon ivory thrones?
Then I opened up my eyes,
Half expecting greatness there;
A renaissance of memories
No longer alone, crumbling, bare.
I saw only the lone sentinel
Broken before a mansion quite decayed
It, perhaps, was once gilded fair
In some long forgotten days.
So if I could say I learned a thing
(If any spark of fire stoked)
From my meeting with the bones
Of memories aged and broke,
Is that the forest has a way, you see,
Of taking back what’s hers
With briars and twisting ivy-plants
All with a sardonic kind of mirth.
So when next you are a-wanderin’
To where the thorny thistles dwell
Turn around and walk from there,
Lest you bloody yourself as well
Take heed to what I’m saying,
Take to heart these bitter words
Let not the forest take you back
by thistle, thorn or dirge.
For memories are wondrous things,
When by intact, occasional recall
But one cannot tarry over-long;
Lest they grow derelict and stark.
And thistles, they may prick you,
and thorns will surely bite your skin
But if to the wilds, memories take you,
You are lost to wilds within.