Monday, April 05, 2010

Sharks' Teeth Soup

A strange and nameless malady
that sages cannot diagnose
has struck the king of Serendip.
This monarch suffers terribly:
in pain, he cannot find repose.
His sunken eye and swollen lip
but hint at royal agony.
He bleeds at every fingertip
and pus comes from his nailless toes.

A wanderer with staff and bowl
and shaven head has come to court
to witness this unhappy thing.
The queen commands this humble soul
to render aid of any sort
to end her husband's suffering.
He kneels before her throne. "Your goal
is medicine to help the King?
Here is the cure of last resort.

"Send fishermen to catch a shark
and kill it, bringing you the teeth.
You must make soup from them. And know:
your hand alone may set the spark
to light the fire underneath
the cooking pot. Keep boiling slow
until the broth turns thick and dark.
Then stoke the fire that burns below
and let him drink it at the seethe.

"Attend, O Queen of Serendip!
The power of this remedy
can kill in an unwary dose.
See that he only takes one sip
or all the consequence will be
upon your head." The beggar bows.
The queen arises, hand on hip
and offers any price he asks. He knows
he's fortunate to be set free.

The shark's teeth soup is boiling hot.
The king has sipped it once—he sighs.
"It's better... but I still feel ill.
If little helps, perhaps a lot
would cure for good." The queen replies
"My King, this medicine can kill!
The traveler warned me you must not
take more than one sip." "Drink your fill,
O King!" come unexpected cries.

"Who would withhold the gift of health
from you, O Majesty? 'Tis but
an act against the royal life
disguised as care. She seeks, by stealth
and tricks of poisoners, to cut
your thread, as with assassin's knife!
She claims your throne and all your wealth.
O Majesty, suspect your wife!"
Suspicion clutches at his gut.

He drinks. A single steaming drip
falls from the spoon, and silently
he feels the power as it goes
out from his limbs, his palsied grip.
He cannot stand, sinks to one knee
and on his face the darkness grows.
The stricken king of Serendip
now hears the stranger's voice. "You chose
Death over Life, your Majesty."

Collection available! Knocking from Inside

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