Purloined Princes by Adele Gardner

Purloined Princes
       After “Hurt Hawks” by Robinson Jeffers

The speckled stone was white, oblong, a split through the top, hollowed,
Abandoned in my garden weeds, dead stalks,
The ship turned statue, cold, lifeless. He emerged warm, shivering,
A bloody gash: his side caught, squirming
Through stone to free air. I found him, spent, black puddled in shadows, eyes live,
A slitted green-yellow like fall larch,
Proud, pleading, universal S.O.S., though he didn’t speak.
He never spoke in words. I heard it all.
Black velvet sides heaved—I slung him, light burden, home to stitch in life,
Panting under my touch: he was the last,
Escaped from a ruined earth. Four feet, four thumbs, forty built-in tools,
His whisker-thin, white warning grid floating useless,
No signals to tremble it to life. We spoke in looks, touch,
The treble of his voice a song, a mystery.
He’d rest, then fly; but he’d nowhere to fly. Nights, he snuggled between my breasts,
Warmth rumbling waist to neck like the husband I’d longed for,
A sigh shared, loneliness loosing its chokehold as we breathed the same air.

Five years he was mine, silken stardust, eloquent eyes, ageless mind close as a kiss.
The restitched wound never healed, life leaking free
Though he ran sleek and delicate as a bee through pollen, strewing seed with fertile feet.
Four-footed queens bore sons like him, purloined princes
I hid for him, their dim, gentle smiles and wordless purrs his frequency, not his depth.
He had nothing left; dozed, dreaming of home—
My ear pressed to fur stiff with tears, his faint voice rumbled of wind, purple sky, rocky places.
He breathed his last on a sunny day, under
Fragrant crabapple, while his sons watched behind glass bars. I took spade to earth, his soft
Darkness pooled beneath a cracked stone that hums of stars.

                     —for Tino

With master’s degrees in English literature and library science, Adele Gardner (www.gardnercastle.com) has a poetry collection (Dreaming of Days in Astophel) as well as over 425 poems, stories, art, and articles published in American Arts Quarterly, Strange Horizons, Pedestal Magazine, PodCastle, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Nine poems won or placed in the Poetry Society of Virginia Awards, Rhysling Award, and Balticon Poetry Contest. Gardner is a full member of SFWA, active member of HWA, graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, and literary executor for father, mentor, and namesake Delbert R. Gardner.

Editor’s comment: The poem, “Hurt Hawks” by Robinson Jeffers inspired “Purloined Princes,” which won first place in the 2018 Bess Gresham Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of Virginia. It was read and filmed at the awards ceremony poetry reading and included on the PSV’s YouTube channel.

Image credit: A composite of a cropped adaptation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night (downloadclipart.net) and a black cat silhouette (onlinewebfonts.com)