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~~a chant royal~~


O daughter mine, beloved son, the fires
of grim politic spit and lick, intent
on luring joy toward funeral pyres.
Singed by consuming, first hand testament,
oppressed against oppressors, human greed
the mean accelerant, an arson’s feed,
your clamour rises. We must not sit by!
Past apathies have brought us here. To die
and not have tried offends the sacred flame
that burns within, but drowns the finer cry—
Set down what condescends. No guilt, no shame.


The soil you grasped with fists before the mires
of cleanliness and godliness misspent
your jubilance, remembers and desires
that you reclaim your youthful merriment.
Sex void of love, dry acts that plant a seed
of not enough, erode the lust we need
like rain and sun to reach unfettered sky.
Comparison, the asp that bites is sly,
pretends to be your ally in this game
of changing climates while your soul weeps dry.
Set down what condescends. No guilt, no shame.


What drought is this, you talk about? One tires
of opinions hammered and never bent.
My ears have heard you plenty. What transpires
when the current flows feels more provident
of who we are and where we’ll be. A bead
of optimism’s sweet. To mourn and bleed,
a suicide where answers come to die;
I much prefer the dew and butterfly.
A portrait Earth with ocean as her frame
displays us all, prudes, libertines, and spy.
Set down what condescends. No guilt, no shame.


Oh, mind, how split and vast you are, with gyres
of ascending hopes, prone to accident.
You twirl on grief and rage like rubber tires
hung by rope, stalled, frustration evident.
I’m made far less of latex, more of steed,
jump easily low fences choked with weed
of disapproval. I’m a kite. I’ll fly
because I can and want to. By and by,
I’ll lose this learned capacity to blame,
give reason the respect it’s due when I
set down what condescends. No guilt, no shame.


I’ve bounced you across continents, brought liars
to our home, demanding you be silent.
Fear displaced my spirit, sowing briars
where you needed from me roses. I meant
harm at times, but regret’s a curved reed,
so all of it’s blown back to me, indeed.
Know this one thing, dear child, before I die.
I loved how long and often you did try
to heal what I had broken and inflamed.
If effort’s gold, you’ve laid great fortunes by.
Set down what condescends. No guilt, no shame.


So now the apron’s cut. Your single eye
discerns. You’ve gleaned all that you need from my
history. Don’t look back. Forget my name,
but if you must record, aim true and high.
Set down what condescends. No guilt, no shame.


Chant royals—or are they chants royal?—were all the rage in 14th century northern France, while courts in southern France entertained sestinas. I’ve gone into detail on their form and rhyme elsewhere in Oceantics. What makes these 60 to 62-line poems a rare bird in my experience is the challenge of finding a final line that I can tolerate repeating six times. They are, after all, chants, not rants, with an expectation of dignity, given the audience for whom they were composed.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016