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Tree, Shadows, The Wind

By: Bruce LeSourd

If you are offended by the warriorliness, bardliness, passion, innuendo or outdoor landscape spectacle in the "Xena: Warrior Princess" syndicated television series, you will be offended by this prose poem.

The terms "warrior" and "bard" are not intended to infringe on any copyrights, and, thankfully, it wouldn't matter if they were so intended.

The bard is on a knife edge ridge, snug in a bowl formed by the roots of an ancient tree. Below her, out of sight, a stream roars out of the hills, carving the ridge into a cliff on one side. The tree at her back rises alone, windswept and riven, its bark white against the sky. The wind howls, but the tree does not seem to care about the storm, and the bard is snug in its hollow, warmed by the afternoon sun. The bard lifts her quill and stretches, enjoying the sensation of emerging into the cool air and then retreating again. A good rest in the sun after a hard morning's travel, and food close at hand. She breathes in the scent of heather, then smiles. Her quill dips, then flys across the parchment. The warrior hones her skills on the ridge-top, and her shadow plays across the lip of the bowl. Her sword writes the unyielding words of the warrior's art into the air, but the rippling shadow of her hair effaces them. The bard sees the warrior's life delineated by shadow: wavering in firelight, hunting in moonlight, riding into battle on a shadow horse at dawn, cast far into the West on a sea of rippling grass. Dark pools reflecting the shadow deep in the warrior's eyes, the shadow on her heart that wounds her, the shadow that comforts her, the shadow that makes her strong.

The bard crawls forward to lie at the very edge of the hollow, right above the brink of the ridge that the stream below has carved. Her quill dances with her sunlit hair. She traps the shadows there, between ink and paper. When she is done, the bard will stand in the wind, and see the warrior unveiled at last.

The scent of heather is tinged now with the salt of the distant sea, and longing.

"What are you writing?"

Surprised, the bard releases the parchment. A gust of wind catches it, lifts it with the dandelion seed into the sky. The warrior reaches for the prize, but it curls and slips her outstretched fingers, falls down the cliff into the white foam below.

"I hope that wasn't something you mind losing," says the warrior.

"Only daydreams," says the bard, but the wind steals her sigh.

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