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A Glosa

He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat
against the stinging blast;
he cut a rope from a broken spar
and bound her to the mast.

—“The Wreck of the Hesperus”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In the moribund night of a waning moon
on the crags of an island known as Doon
o’ Fara, moves the shadow of a weaver
from thatchéd hut to cliffs of spray and salt.
By day she spins and knits complicated
garments for the discerning and remote.
By all accounts, her wealth cannot be touched
or measured, though she started life as
property of one they called the Stoat.
He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat

and circled her, resentful, day and night.
Whate’er she thought or dreamed, he knew.
He brought her sprigs of violet and skeins
of tangled wool to while away her hours.
He filled her head with tales of dread and
disappointment that sealed her like a cast.
You are my legacy, he’d croon. When I am gone,
you’ll carry on my song of life’s depravity,
wrapped firmly in the wisdom of my past
against the stinging blast.

The weaselly man he traveled far, indulging
endless appetites. To ease his welcome home,
he filled the holds of ships with ivory bits and
wooden masks in such vast quantities that
Fara could not move inside her thatchéd prison.
Some folk say she clubbed him with a bar
of solid gold; others say he met his end
in polar realms—who knows? One day,
she hired a young man home from war.
He cut a rope from a broken spar

and built a sledge, and together they expunged
all traces of the dark controlling Stoat. With every
discard off the cliffs, her mind became more spacious.
The young man went his way, and she, devoted
to the doon, mastered patterns of abundance from
the roiling wind and sea. Eons since have passed,
and only in the darkening moon are glimpses of the
weaver seen. But on certain icy twilights, you may
catch the whiff of him who, loathing freedom, cast
and bound her to the mast.


You can learn more about the medieval Spanish form called glosa here.

© Elaine Stirling, 2015