I dove in a dream last night
to a court of letters where Love
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