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I dove in a dream last night

to a court of letters where Love

artist unknown

stood trial for the crime of pride.

Salty rain was pouring in through

glassless windows so I moved

to stand under a canopy of

rushes, hoping to understand.


Prove it!  Prove it!, the prosecutor,

a great black pelican, was shouting.

Judging from the wobble of his wrinkled

pouch, he’d had enough of a trial

that was taking him nowhere.


While a bright red cardinal chirped

in defense of Love who sat quiet

in the witness box, I spied with my

little eye that the audience were all

letters—that’s right, letters…of the

alphabet. There were jays and kays

and double you’s, esses with small

pees asking their smartly-dressed

upper cases, y r we here?


Silence!  squawked the goose

who was judging the proceedings.

He craned his long sleek Canadian

neck toward Love. If you cannot

control your entourage, I shall

ban them from this court,



Love, the defendant, said nothing.


A dove hovered over Love, and no one

seemed to notice or care. She was a

hologram, maybe—no, a holy gram!

Ha, ha, crowed my witty dream self.

A holy gram, transparent and

weighing almost nothing, yes!


His Honour the goose glared at me. I gulped

and moved further back into the shadows.


Where were you when you last saw pride?

demanded the pelican.


At a bar, said Love, in Toledo.




Spain. I had brought my sword

to the blacksmith on Perfidia Street

for sharpening and felt need of a drop.

Love, too, thirsts.


I smiled. I was beginning to like

this guy Love with a bird above his head.


What was pride doing in this bar in Toledo?


Trying to be noticed by a raven-haired beauty.


In what manner was pride trying to be noticed?


The usual method, by swelling,

by rising to his glorious, full-thrusting—


Chirp, chirp!  chirped the cardinal for the

defense, which I took to mean, shut up,

Love, you are making things worse!


The pelican shook his saggy, disapproving

pouch. Please tell the court what happened next.


The beauty, said Love, looked over at pride,

and he . . . and he . . .


Love could not or would not go on.

The dove above him fluttered, flapping her

wings as if she had landed in something tarry.


I felt a shuffling to my right and turned to find

the letter X standing beside me. Letters don’t have

eyes—well, I obviously does—but I’d swear, X was

looking straight ahead, pretending not to see me,

while at the same time hoping to be seen b-y m-e.


All right. So Beauty looks at pride,

the prosecutor said. Then what?


Love looked out upon the court of letters,

and so did I. The letters were shifting,

changing places in the long wooden benches.

Neither the cardinal, pelican nor goose seemed

to notice, so silent were the members

of the alphabet.


To the prosecutor, Love replied:

Beauty, whose full name was Beautiful,

gazed upon pride, and he fell.


Fell where? Witnesses say he disappeared. No one has

seen pride since that night in the bar, where you were.


X moved closer to me. I could feel my shoulder

touching the upper tip of his left stroke. It dawned

on me then that Love was not on trial for the crime

of pride, but for the crime of killing it!


I felt a stabbing in my heart and noticed that the rows

of letters had settled into place like Scrabble tiles.





Love opened his arms and spoke

to the entire court in a voice so quiet

that even the salty rain stopped to listen.


Pride fell into me.

He will not be seen again.


At that moment, two things happened.

X leaned over and kissed me on the cheek


and the dove flew away.


© Elaine Stirling, 2011