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The Girl Preserved by Pompeii
In ruins of Pompeii, there lies a girl
Eternally preserved in finest dust.
The sun has turned her face of ash to pearl
Of smoothest white; a face that once showed trust
In the possibility of love in each
She firmly stood against what might
Have ever crossed her path, was out of reach
From evils that haunt mind and soul at night.
Not once did she show anger or distress,
Nor sadness, grief, nor pain. For, thought the world,
This girl had undeniably been blessed
By gods above who dwell in clouds unfurled,
That kindness only from her eyes would beam
And fill the faults of man.
Or so it seemed.
Should passersby stand close to her, they’ll hear
A faint but steady whisper from her lips.
Just three have stopped and cared, in all these years,
To listen to the tale she tells: a ship’s
Brave captain, a princess from a far-off land,
A boy she thought she knew from an old dream.
Her whispered truth is of deceitful bands
Of joy that mask a broken porcelain. Cream
Skin, deftly clothed so as to cover marks
That never heal, cries out in fear of yet
Again being painted with thick strokes of dark
Browns, reds, and blues. And still, she thought a debt
Was somehow owed to her painter, silencer,
Spectator, who relished in her torture.
The captain listened to her and said naught.
That such a delicate body should hold
Such misery, he could not stand the thought.
A little wooden boat he placed in the fold
Of the girl’s hand so that, when grasping it,
She could escape from her tempestuous life
To calming oceans of her moonlit
Imagination: a respite from strife.
The princess listened to the girl and laughed –
Laughed not to be derisive but to heal
The porcelain’s cracks that seemed so much like shafts.
Their laughter saw many suns set, ’til peals
Of trumpets from the far-off land called back
The princess, whose felicity never slacked.
In parting sentiment, a silver shield
Of purest joy she draped over the girl.
Under its protection, her life would yield
No harm, but watch her happiness unfurl.
In time that passed, the girl lay safely by.
When sunshine would glint its last and moon beams
Enshroud the girl, she oft would close her eyes
And lose herself to the hand of quiet dreams.
One eve, she dreamt of drowning in a pool
Of silver: porcelain mask melting with
Reflection of the moon.
She cried, How cruel,
Being trapped in the splendor of Luna’s myth!
But then a gentle hand reached in and drew
Her onto banks of freshly forming dew.
In morning light, the girl awoke to find
A new sensation comforting her heart.
The glistening shield and wooden boat in mind,
She understood their strength and joy as part
Of this stirring - ignorant of the truth.
But even with their strength and joy, the gifts
Could not erase the horrors of her youth.
Her whisper fell to depths unheard. A cliff
Arose and shadow blackened confidence
That had begun to break the mask.
As utter dissolution won her sense,
A boy reached down a hand into the dust.
Her whisper, hardly there, had caught his ear.
His hand caught hers before she disappeared.
In gentleness before unknown, the boy
Took hold her arm and held her close. He slowly
Fought back the cliff that threatened to destroy
Her porcelain shell. And in her heart, wholly
Felt, stirred once again a comfort, warm and
Safe. This, she knew, was strength and joy
He drew her from behind the mask, the bands
That smoothed the colors they lay above.
He reined her in from harsh, secluded seas
And raised the shield whose silver had become
A weight unbearable. New sensuality
Swept through her porcelain – rhythm, music, from
The touch of just his hand.
Please, she prayed, Guide
Me always. The world’s time will step aside
And watch us walk through sun and silver light
Always, came his murmur back.
For once, the girl knew happiness, delight.
The rains came down, one night, in soaked attack
On promises made once in dust. He shed
Her hand and walked away. The girl lay still
In the ashes, watching him ‘til rain bled
With moon and blurred her vision, drenched her will,
And she could not discern if he turned round.
The drops formed rapids down her face and to
The hand that once was held by his. She found
They burned and scratched, they cracked and stripped and hewed
A flow of chips from porcelain once thought blessed
By gods above who held her to their breasts.
Without the porcelain, legions of anguish flowed
Into the ash.
The girl once more held tight
To wooden boat and silver shield, bestowed
With love and joy and strength. And yet, despite
The goodness stored in them, she lost her trust
In man, in hope, in turns of mirth that might
Have once proved life as virtuous and just.
And still today, she lies in wait for one
To stop and see the tiny rivulets
Of dust, in which are buried the porcelain
Chips that lead the eye to the inlets
Of her heart.
Her spirit remains alive, if only split
In smaller pearls that glint in ash moonlit.