Before the Duel

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

And all that their 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

My 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 realized

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.’

 

© 2017 AGP

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