Farther Astray

for Stephen, of course

Mad Sweeney had leapt from one end of Ireland to another without effort, though at times pursued by the white, floured shape of his fetch; from Earth to Mars was simply another leap. Trees there were fewer, but more fruitful; less there was to startle him. Almost he lapsed back into sanity, there in the sheltering branches of the sorapus trees, his poetry full of the quietness of unpeopled Barsoom.

By an ancient waterway he chanced upon a young girl huddled in the crotch of an usa-tree: round of thigh she was, and full of breast, her face lit fleetingly by the unconstant light of swift Thuria and patient Cluros. She recited this poem:

Ah, Thuria, mad queen of Heaven
The hills pass in stately procession,
their bosoms rising and falling;
the trees move in restless circles;

The little grasses describe little arcs.
All is movement, restless movement
Mysterious movement without sound,
While Thuria passes.

Sweeney chuckled and gave her this poem praising the trees of Barsoom:

Mournful the roar of the hunting banth
always hungry, always hunting,
sharp teeth ready to slash
like the long sword of the warrior.

The leafy sorapus tree
Has softest branches
Its shadows are black
Well-hid is he who hides there!

The wide branching usa
Stoops beneath its heavy load
Stout limbs straining
Against the sweet fruit.

He would have gone on, but his madness came upon him then and he leapt away as soon as her eyes sought his.

2 thoughts on “Farther Astray

  1. Thank you, but credit needs to go, too, to Edgar Rice Burroughs for the loan of Thuria, daughter of Mars, and to Seamus Heaney, whose translation of Sweeney Astray I love dearly.

    Also I like your name.

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