Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Requiem for a Solitary Unicorn

The song of a dying white unicorn—

he bowed his horn in meadow flowers spun,

and flee not the coming wrath, neither run.

From his brow unfurled the steeple, his horn.

There was a text of prophecy then borne

to earth within his vestal silver frame,

the word spoken from ancients was his name

and in a rustic stable, the child born. 

Rhema would guard his cherished golden head

and beams of light fell from his mercy eyes

to oft transcend the poverty of earth,

to feed the multitudes on coarse dark bread

and read the signs of the celestial skies.

To apprehend the curse, there is no curse.


What novice could hide herself in a cell

and know the living presence as a flame,

to walk by candlelight medieval lane;

to hearing ears, mystics’ chants and prayers fell.

Read the song again, this book is poem:

there is a repetition of its thread,

there is salvation in its bodice bred,

there is the hope of an eternal home.

Who built these stone walls of fierce workmanship?

Was there a foreman, mason on the site;

the very brick denotes his pay. Who paid?

Some man of bright wisdom or fine wealth, it

pleased him, such a great castle, where no blight

would devastate your cares and hopes, or raid.


No one can batter these walls, brokenness

is not the form of a healthy woman:

lexicon from the glance of sainthood wan,

the nuns protect her vows in eagerness

to win her favour. St. Clare is patron

of this fragile heart prepared for vastness

of a heather tundra, windy, restless;

there are dreams within the green eyes of sun

through the windows of the cathedral tall—

the light that falls on us in silken streams,

anointing of the green olive oil tree

in a lonely chapel, wooden and small,

that overcame death and decay for beams

of fluent light and laughter. Sit with me.


I sit on the bench. I am in the hall.

I travel in ions of turquoise hues;

I mesmerize my audience with blues,

melancholia sells tickets to all.

There is a long line of wealthy patrons

who want to buy their way into this world

of theatrical curtain calls and twirls

of lines, rehearsals, pinafore aprons.

We have our way of crossing the dark stage,

there's a rope holding the curtain, which sways

in midnight colour of deep navy blue.

Who stands in the shadows? Is she nymph, sage,

in darkness. Lighting the candle in ways

that are now spirit-led and keep us true.


Her head is high, she thinks and rises next,

speaking her lines to us like a sharp horn

that catapulted her into black thorns,

with a bright trumpet call to rouse the dead.

If the thistle of criticism had

not frightened her she would have been quite calm,

the tide of sea would sweep in as a balm—

salt, but her voice rose to a fevered mad

and obscene tone; it was a fearful deck

she had been dealt. The blackened Queen of Spades

gathered her powers, and regal, she spoke:

I am the land, the earth writhes, its slim neck,

reputation that would save from Hades.

Mock me not, for earth disappears as smoke.


We sought her favour like a drum that beats

its rueful pilgrimage to the stone heights

of mountains, with rocky canyons, and brights

of sunset upon dusk, the bard her teats,

and weaver spun this glory as a song.

Where the beat kept on, we gladly in line

followed the mother’s milky breast, a sign

of her truth, gold lion’s mane, and tail long.

When no real lion roars, then no one tastes

the soup and bread of her table, no one

believes she is just. Maybe they refuse

to eat what she prepared, in lower castes

of denial and want (they say I’m done); 

in homely ways the haggard beggars choose.

The well-fed are not eager, bones and skin, 

for the court of the prophets, where Rhema

bows the unicorn’s horn, dazzling schema

of the inner world. For you go within

to find peace from despair, and bow your head

in rest upon a Saviour’s breast. Molech’s

night of the star’s soul gives you no solace,

though you toss and turn upon your plaid bed.

The horn was righteous blessing on your day,

but you preferred the night of pallid fright,

who would prefer a nightmare to a dream?

The ship of your mind sailed into the bay—

a way to find unicorn’s linen-white

side or have her sew the lovely shell seam.

Emily Isaacson

Photo used by permission: Armstreet Clothing Company