|Lavina, Canto 10: Lavina in the Desert (Part 1 of 2)|
by Julian X  /  poetry  /  24 May 2008
The small craft made its feeble way
when the lovers had finished,
and continued for several days,
land not yet in sight.
The three were starving, but the thirst was worse.
The two spoke a language Lavina did not,
and she could not understand so much as a word
of the conversation they used to wile away the hours.
At first, Lavina feared the man’s eyes on her,
that he would take her by force there,
secluded from all the world, from ground and laws.
Then, Lavina came to worry that each glance at her by either,
each secret word, shared only by two of these three isolated souls,
signaled some plan to kill her,
to quench their thirst upon her blood
and sate their salty hunger with her uncooked loins.
But they continued onward,
while days became a week,
and the situation grew ever more desperate, more dire.
Yet still the fading masculine arms
propelled them forward,
aided by the women only while he slept.
After a week and a half, they spotted birds overhead,
and the next day spotted land, making landfall
on desert beach by night. Chance had favored them at last,
and it soon began to rain in huge droplets.
Lavina cupped her hands and opened her mouth wide,
letting the sky fill her belly with fresh life.
Namibaku and her man followed suit,
and they slept on steady land at last.
The next day, Lavina awoke to the grunting sounds
of the lovers taking pleasure in each other.
She did not move, letting them think in their oblivious joy
that she still slept. After they had finished,
she let herself stir. The man had already captured a lizard
of some sort, and the two had picked it nearly clean
before their morning spoils, but he offered her some.
Lavina would have felt like vomiting to look at the carcass,
all blood and scraps of flesh of strange texture
clinging to protruding bones, but she hesitated
not a moment, squatted in the sand,
and gobbled every morsel of lizard flesh.
When Namibaku saw this, she upbraided the man a bit,
but he would not hear of it. Lavina
could not understand their speech,
but knew full well the tone.
The two lovers talked a bit, and then the man walked off,
saying nothing. Lavina asked where he was going,
but Namibaku explained only in unintelligible sounds.
Lavina took from the girl’s gestures that the two of them
were to stay there, and Lavina knew she could do naught
but comply. She could not communicate,
yet knew they would only survive together.
She felt a prisoner of the two, who could speak together
and do as they wished, whereas hers was merely to follow
and hope their plans included her survival
and were wise besides.
Though the sun burned her fair skin,
the breeze cut her flesh for all the world like knives.
Lavina wished for clothes: of the three, only Namibaku
had any, and hers was naught but a grass skirt.
Her stomach needed more food, and so she set about looking
for another lizard. Namibaku followed for a time,
seeming to ask Lavina what she was doing,
but Lavina’s explanations could not be understood.
After some time, Lavina finally saw a lizard,
scurring side to side beneath the top of the sand.
She dove at it, but it burrowed too quickly for her.
She stood, a watchtower, until her eyes again caught movement.
Again she dove, and this time caught a foot between her fingers.
She pulled the squirming lizard from the sand.
Her every civilized instinct said to drop it
in shock, in disgust, but her belly screamed
to hold on tight. Once she’d overcome her revulsion,
she now had to think how she might kill the thing,
and began beating it against the dunes.
After a few hits, it stopped moving, but when she begun,
tentatively, to pull at its flesh,
it darted from her unprepared fingers,
landing in the sand, burying as fast as it could.
She instinctively began to smash at it with her feet,
then dug where it had been and found,
to her surprise, the wounded lizard,
its leg and tail torn off, lost within the sand.
She laid it on the surface and put her foot over its head,
then ground its brains beneath all the force she could muster.
It left her exhausted, but there could be no doubt
no life remained within its battered carcass.
Unable to tear the flesh free with her fingers,
she closed her eyes and took a bite.
It disgusted her, but felt like heaven to her belly,
and any revulsion was gone by the third bite.
Namibaku had stayed close enough to glace at Lavina
every so often, had seen the commotion, and soon came over.
Lavina offered her the lizard, and she took it,
then turned and walked away. Now,
Lavina followed. Namibaku took one bite, then another,
shielding the lizard from Lavina’s sight.
As Namibaku continued to walk away and eat,
Lavina asked for the lizard back, then held out her hand,
but Namibaku was not so much as looking.
Lavina stopped and sat down, sweaty from the sun
and the exertion of catching the reptile.
Namibaku walked until she was far enough away
that she could run, should Lavina give chase,
then sat down herself, facing Lavina, watching her
as one might watch a potential, but not too dangerous predator,
The two girls were still seated in the sand
when the man returned, three lizards limp in his hand.
One he’d already begun to eat, another he gave to Namibaku.
When he approached Lavina to give her the third,
Namibaku chased and protested in her native sounds.
The man would hear nothing of it,
and Lavina graciously accepted his charity,
though not Namibaku’s scowl as he walked away.
That night, Lavina slept apart from the couple.
She had trouble sleeping, her thoughts arrested
by their uncertain future and her powerlessness.
Eventually, though, she fell asleep, only
to wake some hours later, in the dark beneath the stars,
disoriented and in pain. Namibaku stood over her,
and was reaching down to pick up the canoe,
which lay beside Lavina on the sand.
There was something in Namibaku’s temperament
that made Lavina immediately sense danger.
She sat up, whereupon, Namibaku let go of the canoe
and began to hit her in the head and shoulders.
Lavina shielded herself and shouted, and quickly
the man was upon them, pulling Namibaku away.
Lavina stood and felt dizzy, half asleep
as she watched the man restrain the writing girl,
who suddenly reminded Lavina of nothing more
than the lizard, caught, the day before.
Lavina watched impartially the struggle,
then realized her head hurt and put her tired head
in her hands. When she pulled her hand away,
she saw blood, thick on her fingers in the moonlight.
Looking down, she saw blood on the canoe
where it lay beside the imprint her skull had left
in the sand. Namibaku, Lavina realized, had tried to kill her
while she slept, and Lavina could not see the wound she’d left.
While the couple struggled,
Lavina walked down to the beach and into the calming waters.
She began to wash the wound,
hoping the salt water would help
and seeing the pinkish blood disperse
in the monochrome of the moon.
After a few minutes, she saw the man approaching.
Namibaku was behind him, picking up fistfuls of sand
and tossing them against his back.
This he ignored, came up to Lavina,
and examined her head. As he was moving her head
to get a better view in that dull light,
Namibaku grabbed hold of Lavina’s hair
and began pulling the two down into the gentle surf.
The man, in one simple, graceful gesture,
extended his arm in full and swung it around,
smacking Namibaku on the face
and sending her to the ground.
Lying in the shallow waves, Namibaku
began to scream at him. He said but one sentence
in that unknown tongue, stern and final,
then turned again to Lavina’s wound.
Namibaku continued in angry but quieter tones,
then climbed back up the beach.
The man finished his examination, then looked
Lavina in the eyes. She could not comprehend what he said,
but the tone, and the compassionate but not overly worried look
within his eyes said all she needed to hear.
He held her for a moment, awkward,
then let go and headed up the beach.
Namibaku would not stop, Lavina knew.
The man was good and would protect her,
but Namibaku would always wish Lavina dead.
The man could not stay with them all the time,
and one day Namibaku would kill our heroine
unless she acted first. The situation, Lavina knew,
could not continue. And so,
Lavina thanked fate that they had helped her
escape that island of women, thanked fate
that she had not died like poor Ishtanni,
and headed down the beach,
shielded from sight by the dunes,
until she was certain that she was out of sight.
She hoped the man would not see her leave,
knew he’d run to her if he did,
and that this would only make things worse.
She even pitied Namibaku and hoped
they would be happy together,
that he would keep them alive
and she would feel at peace, alone with him,
no other woman to threaten her by merely being present.
Perhaps they’d spend their lives on that beach,
Alone together with the lizards and the rain water.
If the man saw her go, he was wiser than he was kind
and did not give chase.
When she was certain she’d walked enough to be out of sight,
Lavina turned inland, turning her thoughts
towards her own survival.
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