Shining Like Crystal

The left arm pushes, the right arm draws,
The thumb and the nock the cheekbone kiss.
One moment while the muscles settle,
Sighting breathless past the string.
Fingers uncurled, but all else frozen,
The bowstring hisses along the guard.
The fletching shrieks as it clears the bow,
Then the arrow's gone, snakewise writhing.
The target grunts when the steel strikes,
Punching home in the golden center.

Sword in my left hand, shield on the right,
Measured steps in the morning air.
The challenge rings over dew-soaked grass,
Names announced, salutes exchanged.
You may begin!  Above my shield
I see his eyes looking back at me.
I catch a blow upon the shield,
Step to my left, and then swing hard!
Sweet the crack of a solid blow,
Welcome shock ripping up my arm.

Left foot forward, right foot back;
Left arm forward, right arm back.
Warm on the palm the big spear's weight,
Bronze head eager to slice the air.
Draw your breath down deep into you,
Then shout! with effort, stepping forward,
Hurling your body through the throw.
The muscles of your back catch fire.
Sure as lightning from Jove's own hand
It strikes the target square in the gut.

Axe in the left hand, axe in the right,
Shoulder to shoulder in blazing sun.
Lay on! cry the marshalls, and here they come.
Block with one axe, strike with the other:
Did I get him?  Can't tell, and here's another.
Solid work, is chopping manwood.
One crashes past me, all intent
To seize our flag and bear it off.
My left arm swings and takes him cleanly
Back of the head: he spins and drops.

Not in anger or hope of glory,
Not in quest of throne and crown,
Not for lust of lovely lady,
Knighthood's belt, or great reknown:
These are the moments that bring us back,
When injuries have made us rest,
These the memories that urge us suffer
Endless sweat to be our best:
Sweet as a galliard's final chord
A well-struck blow with axe or sword.

Copyright © 2000 by Green Sky Press.  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this poem, or any portions thereof, in any form.  The border picture is LGrey003 from ABTA Absolute Background Textures Archive.  The nested table used to generate the border was generated by the program at TagBot Borders and subsequently modified by the author.