Janie Hofmann ~ Duo Poetica

The Third Garden of Eden

Charlemagne wore a halo of golden twilight
the day the Franks came to victory.
In his garden, picking vegetables,
patient as the cold night he uprooted
and caressed each leafy mass.
A servant entered, crying.
“Take the radishes,” he insisted,
caressing her shoulder with one rough
hand. Before she could protest a bell
that sounded like a beaten kettle rang.
“Your second grandson?” the servant
offered. “No,” His correction was gentle.
My third.” “I am proud for you, my lord,
she said.” He smiled, pointed
at the reedy green tubes of the onions,
and the servant nodded and went for a spade.

The Maidservant

Why I must be the one
to carry this head
tonight I do not know;
for I have already done
the work for her, mother
as I know her, our secret
regarding my birth
never to be shared.
She said it was my duty
to hold him down
and cut, as I was younger,
tri-dacytl and stronger
and that her sheltering
me for all these years
as her servant was the beginning
of the divine. I was meant
for this role of carrying
a blood soaked sack
across my scaly back.
She forced me to look at his face
before I cut: Look at your father,
she said, and all my eyes
saw was the fool
who did not recognize
one of his own conquests.
From who else could my multiple
arms, digits have been born?
His hair and skin are under my finger
nails and I curse this misuse
of my lineage. We stopped
by a muddy stream, and rats
came up to nibble and poke
at the sack. Must we roll
it out to all of Jerusalem?
I asked. She nodded.
I slipped a tentacle
into the sack and placed
my ring in his mouth.
She cried out: You
give your foul father
the ring I gave you?
I showed her the gold
tooth I had retrieved
from his sagging jaw.
She agreed then that all
was equal and we washed
our hands in the silty water,
said no prayers
and picked up the leaking
sack, our trudge towards
the city sweet and pure.


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