|Lavina, Canto 10: Lavina in the Desert (Part 2 of 2)|
by Julian X  /  poetry  /  25 May 2008
She walked through the night, then plodded,
her steps weary, ripping up the sand beneath her feet,
inefficient beneath the pouring sun. She awoke
after nightfall, and her hands could no longer retrieve
more than flakes of dried blood from her scalp.
She caught lizards to eat, and continued away from the beach,
hoping she was going east, day after day.
She wondered at the size of this island,
unable to find a mount from which to see the scope.
And so she continued, feasting on squirming lizards,
crushing them underfoot, all pride gone.
She longed for clothes, and had to pick the sand
from her crevices, but came to fear happening across anyone.
She wondered if an island as large as this
might be uninhabited, and feared what any inhabitants
might do to a strange, nude girl wandering the dunes.
It took almost three weeks before she found anyone,
and when she did, she ducked down to stay out of sight.
Three men were traveling on camels, facing away from her,
and had not seen her before she ducked.
They wore loose garments that covered all but their faces,
evidence that they came from other such men,
that they were not alone on the island.
She wondered if she should approach them, but decided
not to trust the good graces of three men, alone
and isolated in the desert. One man might clothe and feed her,
hoping perhaps for sex but willing to abstain,
even knowing he could rape her, if he were kind.
Even if he were not, and took her by force,
she might at least eat, or get shelter, or some clothes,
and he’d likely keep her or send her back off into the dunes.
Three men were more likely to take their turns,
caught up in their adrenaline, eager to best one another
in their brutality, then slaughter her lest she tell the tale
and the other two collaborate it. No, she decided,
she had to stay hidden. But she would follow them,
staying out of sight, in hopes of finding the civilization
from which they came or to which they were going,
and there find the resources of a life less harsh.
For fourteen days, Lavina followed the three men,
sleeping only when they slept, walking twice as fast
after their tracks or in their direction
if she awoke after they’d already set out.
On the sixth day, a troop of men and women,
some on camels, some on foot,
passed by in the opposite direction.
The three had stopped and chatted before continuing.
Lavina had considered approaching then,
when the presence of women and the number of men
might argue for fairer treatment, but she’d decided not to
and stayed hidden, continuing after the three.
On the thirteenth day, they’d come to an oasis,
a tiny lake with green all along the edges,
a row of tall palms, one deep, and grass
all around the perimeter, giving way sharply to sand.
They’d spent two days and a night there, while Lavina
had watched and eaten lizards from beyond the far dunes.
On the night of the fourteenth day, they’d set out again.
Lavina decided to mark well their direction,
but not to follow. She’d spent two days and a night longing
for that water, hoping for some meat along that narrow shore.
Fourteen days was long enough, she thought.
She approached the pond without caution, knowing well
there was no one around. The water was shallow, but deep enough
to immerse in, even to swim, though one occasionally felt
the wet sand against one’s underside
as one propelled through the water. Lavina
loved the feel of water, after all this time, and found
the water’s edge teeming with lizards
hiding in the brave, opportunistic grass.
To her, it was a heaven, but she knew well
that others must know of it and would spot her
as they approached, the pond being low
and the dunes around it being high.
She did not know how long she would stay there,
but knew enough to enjoy it while she did.
She even was able to see her wound in the still water,
but only then if she pulled back her hair.
It was ugly, but was healing, and would be fine,
hidden beneath the hair unless someone looked.
One day gave way to the next, and each day,
Lavina told herself she must be going.
Yet she spent more time in he water
than on the sand, and the prospect of leaving,
of wandering vaguely in the direction the three had left in
held no great appeal. After several days,
she even found a coconut, unnoticed by past travelers,
on one tree around the water’s rim.
It took some trying, but she at last succeeded
in bashing it open against a tree.
It tasted better than all the royal meals
in the days of Guyesp’s harem,
before things went bad, then got worse, and yet worse still.
After several nights, Lavina was swimming in the moonlight
when she suddenly realized that a large band was descending
down a dune, already halfway to the pond.
She knew her motion in the water must have been spotted,
but that she had no chance of outrunning anyone.
And so she swam to one side, hid in the shade
of one of the larger trees, and hoped
nervously for the best. The caravan made it to the water,
whereupon the men began to disembark.
It was a large group, perhaps fifty strong,
and the camels were loaded down with goods.
The men knelt, lapping up the water with cupped hands,
talking to each other loudly. Then, Lavina realized,
one was calling out to her.
Though Lavina could not understand their speech,
there was no fear in their voices.
She saw why: curved sabers dangled from their waists.
They knew she was but one and had no fear.
They beckoned her over, waving for her to come
out from the shade, in friendly voices.
Lavina knew she could not avoid them,
and so she stood, cautiously, prepared either
to go to them or to run.
As soon as she stood, everything changed.
The men beckoning her now shouted to the others,
and all stared at her, nude, glistening in the moonlight
on the far edge, beside the palm
that had mostly sheltered her from view.
Whatever they said stopped everything:
the drinking, the unloading, the happy talking.
And then, at once, every man not on or holding a camel
dropped what he was holding, stopped what he was doing,
and rushed after her with all the speed he could muster.
Lavina turned at once and rushed up the nearest dune,
but she hadn’t made it halfway
when a man tackled her from behind.
From the ground, she kicked him away,
landing a blow hard against his jaw,
but by then three others were upon her,
grabbing her, holding her down.
The others stood over her and stared,
their eyes wide as little moons,
and suddenly it seemed
as if all of them were talking at once,
marveling. Lavina struggled, shouting, demanding
to be let go, but none understood. Then,
all fell silent. A large man, their leader, approached
calmly, and appraised the find.
He marveled as much as the others, though he hid it better.
As Lavina continued her protests, one replied,
“Do you understand me?” in a strange accent,
something imitating the noblest vernacular, though broken.
“Yes,” Lavina replied, thankful to at last be understood.
“Tell them to let go of me.” “I’m afraid,” he replied,
“That you’re in no position to be making such demands.”
He turned and spoke to the leader, who replied
while Lavina waited. The men holding Lavina
then flipped her over, and she could all but feel
the leader’s breath, and the curls of his beard against her back,
as he inspected her. She felt a finger prod her vulva,
then reach inside. “Stop this!” she cried.
“You’ve no right.” The leader spoke behind her,
and then the man who spoke her language.
“It’s a shame that you’re not a virgin,” he observed.
“You’d fetch a better price at market if you were.”
“You’re going to sell me?” Lavina cried, her
eyes staring down at the sloping sand below,
watching the water drip off her hair
as it brushed against the grains a few inches in front of her eyes.
“A white woman with your looks will fetch enough
to buy a whole stable of slavegirls,” he told her.
“We are all thanking God for bringing us such a find.”
“God,” she told them, “has nothing to do with this.”
“How like God,” he replied, “to send us a woman
who would think so.” At this, the men began to talk
again in their tongue, and the leader spoke,
whereupon all others fell silent, then laughed.
The man leaned down to speak to her. “Since
you are not a virgin, the master has decided to enjoy you himself.
God has sent you for his pleasure. Our master is calling you
his – how do you say? – his oasis. God be praised!”
“Fuck you!” Lavina shouted. “And fuck your God!”
At this, the man kicked her hard in the back of the head,
thrusting her from the men’s hands hard against the sand.
The man explained himself hurriedly to the master,
whereupon the master spoke in anger.
The men grabbed Lavina once again, this time
pressing her into the sand, exerting such force
as to make it hard for her to breathe.
Lavina kept cursing, gasping as she did, but to no avail.
She felt the men twist her arms and her flesh,
keeping their weight on her while they turned around,
away from her. She turned her head to the side,
spitting out sand, to see the odd sight. She had
no sooner wondered why they averted their eyes such
than she felt a man’s hands hard against her inner thighs,
then grasping, squeezing her ass precisely as one would
a grapefruit in the market. Then came the brief prodding
at her vulva, before the master pushed himself fully inside
in one sudden, violent gesture. Lavina felt herself
tearing inside, and knew it was all the worse
for how long it had been.
He held her hair tightly between his fingers
and pushed it with all his force into the sand,
grinding her features against the grains
as he took all the vengeance of an offended god
and poured it coldly, without mercy, inside her.
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