The Duchess' Revenge

Voice Card  -  Volume 26  -  Stuart Card Number 3  -  Sat, Oct 24, 1992 9:05 PM

This is a response to VC 25 Stuart 13 ("Still More Bestiary")...

In this latest installment of the saga that is THE BODY BESTIARY, things are beginning to get dark. The heart of the antagonist of this world, The Duchess of Moisture, has been broken, and she has vowed revenge. Our narrator, Uncle Caterpilla, is trying to get to the Dolphin Queen, who lives across the sea, to get help before the storm of violence bursts upon his world. How to get there? Uncle Caterpillar climbs onto the back of a turtle and together they set out on their long journey across the sea, but they must do so secretly, so that The Duchess does not find out.

And so - the following poem, spoken in the voice of Turtle (As usual, you'll want to exapand the text field to get the proper lineation of the poems):

Turtle Story: Turtle Tells How He Ferried Me to The Dolphin Queen
When She Summoned Me at My Wishes' Behests

"Yes, I am the crinkly faced, or worse; dumb-
Ness seems to steal upon me, true, but content?
I am. . . ; many legged weaver full of wisdom,
Don't fear; think of me a kindly continent --
Come on, climb that reed until your weight
Bends it like a bow and, like forgiveness,
Touches me; I love the reeds that sway like wheat. . .
That's it; hug my shell now; the fog rises --
We should go, it's best you don't be seen
You know. . . fog like shells all made of quiet;
No one laughs at me here, and my Queen. . . my Queen
Must always remain Duchess concealed; see that quaint
Crab who scuttles about like a traipsing skull?
A spy, sifting for her through the seas ancient, tropical. . ."

And so Uncle Caterpillar and Turtle set off across the sea, sailing in the moonlight past a coral island. This is a new experience for the former, who briefly entertains "false longings" for this new environment. Turtle on the other hand, becomes homesick for his pond home far away. The following poem is in both of their voices. It is meant to be read both in columns and across, in lines, as one normally would:

Divergent Longings Near a Volcanic Island: Where Turtle Becomes
Homesick, While I Long to Live in the Sea

TurtleUncle Caterpillar

This fiery coralled islandLike a starlit sombrero
These waters strummingLike sunsets that have sambaed
Into themselvesLandwards      where some bear all
Their miseryOh      like leviathan's lamb awed

In the wildernessThat's me      Can I ever again want
In the palaces of leavesThe woods      and lush
A loom of longing weaves my life
I can't

"Wish again"But now in the sea's secret English
I hear it shuttleOut from its starry fells
Down the leopard moon's storm-broken stairsMy heart comes

It illumines the purposeless parts of meIt fills
What I've always knownThese places that are our homes
For I wantWishes simple      clear      at peace
What is most true      Heart
show me      let my false longings cease

Unfortunately, once Uncle Caterpillar and Turtle get to the citadel of the Dolphin Queen, they find that The Duchess of Moisture and her troops have preceeded them. The citadel has been destroyed and all the inhabitants killed. What follows is their discovery of this violation (it is probably, for better or worse, the only two page sonnet in existance). As with the previous poem, the voices of both Uncle Caterpillar and Turtle are represented:

The Dolphin Queen: Turtle and I Enter The Citadel of Pearl,
Only to Find The Duchess Has Been There First

Turtle:These red tides I labor through --
Caterpillar:  Thick as blood

Turtle:Colored like welts
Caterpillar:Something makes the salt air ill

Turtle:This brined sea wind tastes bitter to me

Turtle:My breath comes hard
Caterpillar:So close to the citadel

Turtle:This all seems wrong
Caterpillar:Is there no welcoming

Turtle:No whale song
Caterpillar:No starred parapets of mountains

Turtle:No Queen's Guards
Caterpillar:         Where crowds wave    flags winnowing

Turtle:Here are no subjects
Caterpillar:Only verbed motions

Turtle:The wind shalloped waves
CaterpillarTug me to this bay

Turtle:In which nothing lives
Caterpillar:In the dead-jammed canal

Turtle:By the Pearl Castle
Caterpillar:The dead float like buoys

Turtle:Beside their Queen
Caterpillar:Slain in the gutted coral

Turtle:The Moisture Duchess
Caterpillar:Who thinks through violence

Turtle:Rules Only these spelless nights now
Caterpillar:Ruined voice less. . .

Not only has The Duchess of Moisture visited The Dolphin Queen, but she has exacted revenge on the source of her hard heartedness, Moonlight. The Duchess has sent her troops to rape and kill his daughter, Moonlit Lake, the child of Moonlight and Princess Waterfall. Uncle Caterpillar witnesses this, as well as Moonlit Lake's spirit drifting out to sea from the marshland estuary where she has been killed. And so:

The Duchess' Revenge: Where I See Moonlit Lake Killed

Now Boom! Boom of brain bursting,
bone fright,
Barracuda troops bristling;
life energy
Lanced, banged through her. . .
face, vulva pulped, her fate--
Thrusted cock-leer of enemies. . .

Oh, God, I watched her!
Now, like the murmuring dream
Waters, past the snowy egret, lullaby
sighs of white feathers,
her spirit sidles through green
Pond meadows, through tide pools,
into the sea. . .

Mists now, phantoms,
shimmering-gowned with claws and knives --
Sorrow Mother, heart clenching, drifts
Through the brackish inlet --
is this how desire leaves?

God, I'm shivering cold in the dream drafts. . .

Child, I dreamt Waterfall met the sea -- there was light,
Incandescent union -- it wasn't too late. . .

About the preceeding events, The Duchess of Moisture has her own point of view about what happened, and why, and she tells it to Uncle Caterpillar, the "Weaver" of the following poem:

The Duchess' Destruction of Earth's 999 Moons: Her Account
of Recent Events, Both On and Off the Record

"You'll know my pain by how much pain I cause,
And still my heart forever will hurt more."
     -- from The Duchess of Moisture's Autobiography

"' I have loved, Weaver, as much as anyone could;
And I long, I have longed, the length of milky time,
But my breasts, my heart invaded, were then made cold;
Tell them, too, that in youth my heart would teem
With the blown breath of Moonlight's April rain --
I was a young girl then; I was. . . .' My words
Metamorphose to mist reminiscing pain. . . ;
When Moonlight rose from me into the woods

I culled among my troops my curdling hate
For her, young girl whom Moonlight prizes most;
I made for him and Waterfall a broken heart --
Let them pine forever; those nights, my flood hosts
Of eroding tears cankered the moons -- my plaint --
Until all but the strongest like me split apart. . ."