How could I have been such a fool
To land myself into a duel
With a master bearing the cross,
Sixteen showdowns without a loss.
His hands were too fast for the slain,
Each bullet lodged inside the brain.
He seeks from mistreated burghers
Vengeance for the sins of others.
Break-ins, looting and battery,
Brutal acts of adultery,
The coveting of mistresses,
All their former friend possesses,
The murdering of innocents,
Desecrating without repent
Church towers on the Sabbath Day
And other sins from those who stray
From the true path are censured by
A council of strange passers-by.
These folk, they hide behind his gun
And praise God when the deed is done.
It all began one misty night
When the winter moon reached its height.
From my hometown I ventured far,
Sampling strong ales from bar to bar
On my journey from west by north.
Only after the third or fourth
Had I noticed by my right side
The same lady sat down and cried.
I looked under my trilby hat
And saw that she was looking at
The pint of ale in my pale hand.
Over the tones of a jazz band
She raised her voice, ‘you’ve noticed me
At last,’ as she sipped a whiskey,
‘Won’t you kindly buy me a drink?
I don’t care what people will think.
I’m so lonesome, no one to love,
No man alive can I speak of.’
So I ordered a glass of wine,
A fine Riesling straight from the Rhine.
‘My last lover, shot in the head,
I saw him fall, alive now dead.
Why do you go rambling around?’
‘I lost myself, but now I’m found.’
We clinked glasses and gazed half blind
Into each others eyes. Behind,
The breeze drifted through the window
And caught her hair with a soft blow.
‘Shall we venture out to the dunes,’
She asked, ‘and lie under the moon?’
I drank my fill and took her hand,
We walked two miles to the dense sand
And kissed and talked and laughed and slept,
Her eyes lit up, no longer wept.
When I woke up, long after dawn,
All my pregnant hopes were unborn,
I scratched my head and realised
My hat was gone, I felt chastised,
Nor was she there, not a slight trace,
A stony man stood in her place.
‘You have slept with his Lord’s lover,
From that no man may recover,
The penalty for such a sin,’
The seconds snarled, twisting his chin
Before handing me a notice
Of which none called has yet dismissed,
‘Is to enter with God’s servant
A duel, I am its observant.
Will you prefer pistols or swords?’
‘Pistols,’ I shrugged, looking seawards.
‘Good choice, I’ll note your preference.’
As if it makes any difference.
‘Until time comes, I’ll leave you now.
If you survive, please make this vow . . .’
His voice trailed off in the sandstorm,
Dear Reader, so I can’t inform
You what he said, only that she
With whom I slept beside the sea
And who vanished into the mist
Belonged to the famed duellist.
I couldn’t sleep that afternoon
And went walking out on the dune,
Thinking when to pull my trigger,
Of who will be my grave digger,
Of the reaper that comes my way
And his lover to whom I pray.
I walked and walked until I saw
The duellist by the sea shore.
I hang my head and hurried back,
Running along the old dirt track
Where I’ll be shot. When I returned
To the inn where my head was turned,
There was a note on my doormat
And on my bed, my trilby hat!
On the note read: Please, don’t remove
The dense webbing, nor disapprove
Of my actions, my plan’s foolproof.
Wear your hat high, it’s bulletproof.
I’ll be waiting for you, don’t go
After you send his dust below.
© 2020 AGP