(I must have done something “wrong” when I posted this poem yesterday as my comment section disappeared. Therefore and all the rest, I’m re-posting it without the links to “the Cafe Philos poetry prompt” to see if the comment section shows up again.)
I Am Shallaya
[remembrances of a ~burning woman~ ]
as told by Sha’Tara
Spring steel: that was the Word.
I arched my back to feel it.
‘Yes,’ I whispered to the damp stone walls
Encompassing me, imprisoning me,
That’s what I must be, it’s what I am.
Let them come for me now, I am ready.
They came then, as I knew they would.
They came, two by two at first,
To lie dead and bleeding on the stone.
It wasn’t what they had expected
As they leered at my naked body.
I stood waiting for the denouement:
There was a commotion in the hall
The clank of halberds and swords,
The yell of commands, curses, questions,
Confused calls echoed in the dungeons:
I discovered something else, a new power
The Spirit had left with me: dark sight.
With my mind I extinguished their torches.
They were sightless in the hallway;
Smelled the blood of their fallen comrades
Never thinking I could have done such.
I smelled their fear then, that of retribution
From their superstitions, the dreaded unknown.
I spoke for the first time since captured:
Five days it was I had been stripped, mocked,
And thrown in the dungeon for future sport.
Five days and I found my voice again,
But not the one I’d used to plead with!
‘You will all die,’ I said, growling
As the power beast rose in my throat,
As the spring steel twanged in my back
As I came out slowly, tearing out the steel door
As if made but of straw wattles.
I could see them, they not me!
Pathetic, I thought, as I touched one:
He peed himself, dropped his weapon,
Begged for mercy, as each one did,
Gurgled, as I ripped his throat out,
A fitting end for such cowards.
I found a young one about my size:
Took his clothes, tunic, armour,
Walked out openly, thought a guard
Until challenged at the main gate.
I recognized some of the gate watch:
They had leered and laughed as I was paraded
Naked for their benefit.
‘I am Shallaya the witch,’ I said
Matter of fact and simply intoned
With a normal woman’s voice.
Their eyes grew big, they made their move
And I mine: five men became five bodies.
I turned and cursed their battlements then,
And watched as they collapsed.
I cursed their gate and walked on through.
I cursed their drawbridge. It collapsed
Like a rotten log into the stagnant moat
And what a stench arose from that!
I walked away not even looking back
As the people fled screaming
As mice from a burning barn.
“You did that well” said the Grimmer
As he floated beside me, grinning stupidly.
‘I passed my test, then?’ I asked of him.
“I’m not supposed to tell, but of course
Yes, you passed your test. You are Power.
You are Witch. They await you
To give you your power staff.”
‘Thank you, Grimmer, for the gift.’
And I pointed back to the dying castle.
He laughed and disappeared.
With such power, how did we lose?
How did we not see the Patriarchy coming?
Though nobody now, I remain Witch.
I am Shallaya, and I still ask the Question
And it will never, ever, be over.
That I have sworn upon my staff
The day they burned it, and my body.