|Lavina, Canto 7: Lavina at Sea (Part 1 of 2)|
by Julian X  /  poetry  /  17 May 2008
Lavina left the small town of her birth,
not knowing where she would head, what she would do.
She wanted to return to the capital,
to find what had become or would become
of her comrades in the harem. But she knew,
as she strolled through the managed fields
between those small towns, that she had no chance
to free anyone. Isabel was dead.
And then she thought of the sea
and how she had never seen it. And so
she idly wandered towards the sea, dozens of miles off
and knowing only the general direction.
She strolled from town to town, begging for food,
and families took her in, little town after little town.
To each she told her story over soup or bread
or whatever else they had to offer her. After a night’s rest,
she would ask the direction of Minesea, the nearest port,
and set off in that direction. Some nights
she slept in the wild, chilled by the night wind,
curled up to protect herself without
the silken blankets of the harem. She would wander
dirty into the next town, begging food and bath,
eventually finding some kind soul whom she’d pay
with her tale of woe and of
the lust of the nation’s three kings.
In the little town of Firnesp, halfway in her journey to the sea,
the husband of the family who took her in
climbed into bed with her in the night.
Lavina resisted, but he persisted,
and had to beat her to quiet her down.
She briefly tied but could not sleep
and left afterwards,
taking some clothes and blankets
Later, in the streets of the village of Takendei,
a woman of forty years took pity on her
in the name of the Lord. The woman
had a large home, a husband and children,
two teenage sons with one daughter
in the middle.
They had a fat maid who cleaned and served
the dinner Lavina ate, after bathing, with the family.
They heard her tale, and Lavina went to bed.
The next day, when she asked instructions to the port,
the man of the house begged her to stay,
promising her wine and cheese that night with supper.
It would not hurt, she thought,
to rest her calloused feet but one day,
and she agreed.
She played with the children and, at night,
ate again with the family, who treated her
as one of their own.
The next day, she again agreed to stay,
but that day, saw the eldest boy having sex with the maid.
He was rough, though incompetent,
and when he was through his brother took his turn.
It was clear the maid saw this as an obligation,
and the boys stood over her bragging,
using her completely as an object.
She told the lady of the house, who only said
“boys will be boys,” as if it surprised her not.
When she told the father, upon his return
from the fields, he merely said his son
took after him. As they prepared supper, Lavina tried
to take her leave, but the boys together stopped her.
She struggled and made it outside, where the boys
raped her in the dirt. The whole family must have heard her cries,
and the father came outside – to stop his sons,
she thought. But instead, he took his turn
and joked with his sons as they had before
at their grand conquest of the maid.
Again, Lavina left at night, this time
with only the clothes they had pulled from her body.
By the time she made it to Minesea,
she had been raped
during the journey
by more men than had penetrated her
in all her time in the harem –
and she’d lost any love of the countryside
outside of a nostalgia, kept in a bubble,
for those distant years when another girl
had grown up in Halyptus.
In Minesea, she asked the way to the shore,
then walked to the docks and saw,
for the first time in her life,
those gentle waves caressing the pebbles of the beach,
rocking the small crowd of ships.
She looked to the horizon and saw that the waves
had no end, and she wondered at the possibilities
held on what seemed infinite foreign shores.
It does not take long, for a strange woman
of Lavina’s appeal, standing on the docks,
to be approached by a local man.
She did not dismiss him, but asked if he’d like
to buy her a drink. They went to a nearby tavern
where the other men hooted at their friend,
who they all knew, and asked him about his new prey.
He and she ignored them, and he bought her a beer.
It was only then that he introduced himself
as Hireneld, a crewman on a merchant ship.
They sat, and before long
she told him her story.
“You know Guyesp was a fan of the eastern lands?
Perhaps he learned of the harem
on some voyages abroad. Some claim
those eastern kings have great harems,
and great wonders besides, though none I know
have ever seen them, and we travel there often,
ferrying merchants’ goods – all the things
they value more than us, while we bring back
their strange spice and Arab silks.”
Lavina had heard little of the region
or its strange customs, and he explained
as much as he could: how they spoke another tongue,
how they had a different god,
how they were barbaric in some ways,
but how he’d known good ones.
When she asked if any ships were sailing to this place,
Hireneld volunteered that he would be soon,
though his ship would stop along the way.
She asked what she would have to do
to get aboard that ship. He leaned forward
and whispered in her ear. She promised to comply,
but only after she was aboard.
He did not tell her he had a wife.
That night, they snuck on board the old rig,
moored in the Minesea dock, as it was being loaded
for the morning’s departure. Hireneld
could not bring his wife with him, let alone a mistress,
and so he put her in a crate
he borrowed from one of the loading docks
and carried her on board. She barely fit
and had to curl up within a wooden box
before he nailed it shut.
It was only through her passion to leave
that she could allow him to do this:
nothing could compare to what
she’d already suffered. In the ship’s hold,
Hireneld set her down as delicately as he could
and had to leave her there, alone, cooped.
Others were coming in and out with crates,
and Hireneld could little afford to stop
and unpack one. And so he left her.
Shortly before dawn, Hireneld and the other crewmen
came on board, and the ship sailed as the first rays of dawn
lit up the sea and the sky. Poor Lavina
had never imagined how much boats rocked,
even so close to shore. She began to panic,
locked away in her swaying crate,
no sign of the man with whom
she’d made her deal. She began to wonder
if she wasn’t to be left in the crate, screaming
with legs unable to outstretch, if
she wasn’t to be sold to some foreigner:
no one knew she was there,
no one save her would protest.
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