|Lavina, Canto 9: On the Island of Gyneclia (Part 1 of 2)|
by Julian X  /  poetry  /  22 May 2008
Lavina and Ishtanni
paddled through the night, in shifts,
and continued through the next day.
But near nightfall, a storm began to rise
and soon one was paddling franticly
while the other scooped up water
in her hands and desperately pitched it over
the side. The canoe was taking on water,
twisting in the waves, and they feared
it would capsize.
They did not see the island
until they were upon it,
so thick was the storm and rain.
They made their way quickly ashore,
then drug their little boat up the sand
to save it from the waves.
The girls were drenched, nude in the tempest wind,
and feared death from cold.
They looked around for shelter, but saw none.
A forest met the beach, but the two could see
the rain pouring down from the large, heavy leaves.
Talking, they could barely hear
above the rain. Looking,
they could barely see to look for shelter.
They saw some rocks down the beach
and made their way, running through the piercing rain.
As they climbed the wet rocks, still naked,
they saw a black space further off, what could be a cave,
and began to make the wet ascent
towards this mirage of protection.
During one stretch, the rock was steep,
and they had to step carefully
on the wet, uneven rock
as they flattened themselves against the protruding wall of rock,
afraid of slipping, of tumbling down.
The waves crashed below them, and a few times
the gaps were large between the rocky ledges.
At length, they could climb again,
the rain still pouring on their naked forms,
and they saw that the black had been, as they had hoped,
the opening to an enormous cave.
The two went inside, shook off,
and then went deeper
until they found a smooth, curving wall,
against which they went to sleep.
In the morning, to the call of birds,
Ishtanni woke first and jostled
Lavina awake. They ventured out, onto the rock,
and at once saw a bird with plumage
so full of whites and yellows and reds
that they thought it the most beautiful bird
they’d ever seen. Its beak was golden
and curved, and its eyes were large and wide.
They made their way up the rocks,
where from an elevated position they could survey
the whole island. It looked to be one green forest,
full of life and punctuated along its edge
by large and jagged slabs of black, volcanic rocks.
Beach stretched all around the forest,
encircling it, and a bay of white sand
lay past the tall, verdant, inhospitable mass
on the opposite side of the island.
Birds of all sizes and colors called and flew above the green.
The girls marveled at it, and thought the bay
a nice place to live for some time in this paradise,
to build some shelter and take a break
before voyaging off again.
And so they decided to make their way
along the coast, avoiding the jungle
and traveling instead by sand.
They climbed down back to the beach on which they’d landed,
where they found their canoe, upside-down
and strewn with seaweed.
They picked it up and, between the two of them,
carried it upon their shoulders
as their feet traversed the soft, moist sand.
Sand greeted foot, sand greeted foot,
again and again as they trekked, nude,
for most of the day –
until at length they reached the bay.
Arriving at last, the bay seemed enormous
after seeing it so small from so far away.
It stretched out wide before them,
curving out to meet the sea
with a wide arc of white sand.
But then they saw commotion –
humans ahead, there at the bay’s base.
The two girls quickly moved to the treeline
in order to watch and ascertain
whether some natives might catch
and rape them yet again.
Ishtanni wanted to venture through the jungle
to better spy upon the tribe.
Lavina was more reluctant, but Ishtanni started off at once,
and Lavina followed, loyally,
leaving their canoe where the sand met the trees.
They crept slowly through the bush,
the trees and leaves, and wet soil,
careful not to make a sound.
Lavina hated each step, anxious
that they would be discovered
and thrust back into some terrible bondage,
but Ishtanni pressed onward
and Lavina dreaded being alone.
They crept and crept, crouched all the way,
until they could see a clearing
at the base of the bay.
There, a batch of humans talked and played
in grass skirts among reed huts,
with many coming and going, to and fro,
playing on the beach.
Only this time, the two girls noticed
there were no men.
Not a long time had passed
as Lavina and Ishtanni stood watch
before a girl, clad in little grass skirt,
nearly bumped into them from behind
and, started by their presence,
The startled girl ran quickly towards the encampment,
while Lavina and Ishtanni fled the other way.
Running, Lavina and Ishtanni heard a great tumult behind them
in alien tongue, accompanied by the sounds
of women running after them
with strong athletic legs,
disturbing brush and calling out to one another.
Before long, the two girls were overtaken
and surrounded by the warriors of the tribe:
women with painted faces, streaks of bright color
across their cheeks, screaming faces
despite the grass dresses,
clenched white teeth, intense wide eyes,
spears in their hands, leveled at the two girls.
Lavina and Ishtanni screamed in fear and held each other,
but the warriors approached from all sides,
spears in hand, threatening. Suddenly,
one plunged the thick spearhead into Ishtanni’s thigh,
splitting the skin wide, and down she fell,
screaming now in pain. Lavina
knelt at once and cradled her, but the shaft of a spear
knocked hard against her head, tossing her
aside. The warrior women knelt on top of her,
binding her so tightly
that the ropes ate
into her wrists.
Her head pressed hard into the mud,
Lavina could only hear Ishtanni screaming
as they bound her hard, bleeding, against the sand.
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