|Lavina, Canto 8: On the Island of Firanet (Part 2 of 2)|
by Julian X  /  poetry  /  21 May 2008
The dark women squawked as the men did,
but they wiped the thick sweat
from Lavina’s body, and fed her
some water to recuperate her spirit.
Lavina muttered, slurring her words:
“Tell them to come back.”
Though Lavina could not see it, a woman’s head
turned to hear these words,
then came up to her.
“Tell the men to come back,”
Lavina repeated, eyes closed but body awake.
“They won’t,” the unknown woman said.
Lavina opened her eyes and saw
this Indian woman, skin dark but not like the others.
“Calm down,” the woman said,
wiping the sweat pouring from Lavina’s brow.
“You have the drug in you.
These women will take care of you –
we’ve all been through it.”
Lavina licked her lips,
trying to get moisture there,
and the women brought more water.
“You’ll be awake for some time,”
the Indian woman told Lavina,
“but I’ll stay with you.”
“You understand me?” she asked.
“Am I? Am I hallucinating?”
“No,” the Indian replied. “I speak your language.
But none of the others do.”
“Where... ?” Lavina began, trailing off.
“What are you? Where do you come from?”
“From India,” the woman answered.
“Do you know where that is?”
Lavina did not respond.
“It is far east of here, past the land
on the east of this great sea.”
“I was going,” Lavina responded, “to the eastern lands.
That’s… that’s what they called it.”
“I’m from further east than anywhere you’re going.
My name is Ishtanni, and I was given as a gift
from my ruler to some strange-speaking inhabitants
of the eastern lands who visited my own.
They brought me home to their king’s great palace,
where he enjoyed my company.
But then, to honor some military victory
yet further west than here, he had me sent
by boat, having tired of me.
The ship was caught in a storm
and sought refuge in the port of this island.
The men here came aboard,
killed all those traders in women,
and found me in the hold.
I was brought by spear before their chief,
and given the drug that very night.”
Ishtanni asked Lavina her name,
and Lavina replied. When Ishtanni asked
where Lavina was from, Lavina said Halyptus.
When Ishtanni said that she did not know
where that was, Lavina explained
that it was in the kingdom of Anarolyni,
and before him Cesinare, and before him
Borheya. Ishtanni did not know these names.
“So tell me your story,” Ishtanni prodded.
“My pussy burns. I need dick,” Lavina said,
all euphemism burned out of her veins.
“I know,” Ishtanni replied. “But it won’t come.
So talk. At least to distract yourself.”
Lavina paused, but after a time asked,
“What is this place called? This island?”
“Firanet, they say,” Ishtanni replied.
“Now tell me your story.”
And Lavina did, as the other women went one by one
to sleep, while through the night
Ishtanni cared for their new arrival.
* * *
Lavina slept after dawn,
but not before Ishtanni, who leaned against Lavina’s
awake but unmoving, exhausted form.
The two awoke when the men arrived
and untied Lavina, then hauled off
one of the others. At last sane,
Lavina thanked her helper,
and they met again in new light.
The stolen girl returned a few hours later,
after night had tumbled through the holes
between the straw of the hut’s walls.
The girl was breathing hard, her body worn,
and other dark girls with clucking sounds
Lavina and Ishtanni continued to talk,
and Lavina recalled the previous day
with more horror than all her misadventures:
it was not her first rape, but
it was the first time they’d made her want it.
A few hours later, after most of the girls were asleep,
Hawemoke entered the hut, talking with the guards
with some commotion
in his uncomprehending tongue.
Ishtanni, still awake, heard and watched it all.
“Oh, no,” she said to Lavina. “He says
he’s going to bring you to the chief.”
“Not again,” Lavina said, cringing. “Not so soon.”
Hawemoke came up to Lavina and began to drag her off,
but Ishtanni interfered
and dared to restrain his hand.
He slapped her, and Lavina pushed him in response.
Hawemoke stood aghast, dumbfounded.
Ishtanni spoke a few quick words to him,
then he a few calm ones to her.
He then leaned into her ear and whispered
yet more squawks, muffled so Lavina couldn’t hear well,
much less understand.
Ishtanni’s eyes grew wide. “He says
he’s going to free you,” she told Lavina.
Lavina began to thank him, crying on her knees,
but he quieted her,
then tried again to pull her away.
“No!” Lavina shouted. “Not without her!”
And she pointed to Ishtanni.
“Don’t do this,” Ishtanni insisted.
“Tell him how you nursed me last night,”
Lavina insisted in response.
Then Ishtanni spoke again with Hawemoke,
who didn’t know what to make of all these foreign sounds.
Ishtanni seemed to cluck and squawk so quickly
that the European woman wondered at the Indian’s tone.
But then Ishtanni turned again to Lavina.
“He’s agreed. We’re both to go.”
The two stood and strolled out with Hawemoke,
who shared a few words with the guards,
presumably about bringing a second woman along for the black king.
The three made their way
through the dark night jungle
until they reached the shore
where waves’ crests glowed in the moonlight
and crisp stars filled the clear black sky.
Hawemoke reached up into a tree
and drew down a large canoe,
hauling it across the wet sand
and placing it knee-deep in the tide.
“We’re to sail on that?” Lavina asked.
Ishtanni translated, Hawemoke replied,
and Ishtanni translated to Lavina:
“He says it’s the best they have.”
The black strolled again into the jungle,
retrieving two short oars.
Lavina and Ishtanni, both still naked,
strolled through the sea and stepped inside.
“Come with us,” Lavina pleaded.
Again Ishtanni translated his response:
“He says he can’t. This is his home.
His monarch will punish him, but probably not with death,
or so he says.”
Lavina gestured for him to come close,
then kissed him,
but he pulled back, confused,
and spoke some hasty sounds.
“He doesn’t know what a kiss is,” Ishtanni explained.
“They don’t do that except with babies,
before they’re old enough to become men
or drink the lust and go to the hut.”
Hawemoke strode up the shore, out from the water,
and watched as the two women paddled off,
haphazardly at first, uncoordinated.
He did not stand watching long,
and soon he disappeared back into the jungle.
The girls kept paddling,
and soon were upon the open sea,
where the island grew smaller
until it too was lost.
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