Chapter 20

Portrait of Courage


Poepi awoke with a pounding head,

Her brain balls spinning, feeling dead.

Body aching, fingers shaking,

Stomach churning, breathing quaking.

Vision fuzzy, hair all skuzzy,

No time to wonder “just where was she?”

Only to roll and vomit rot,

Straight on the floor beside her cot.

After that her vision blacked,

And she passed out, on breathing slackened.

Many, many, hours later,

Still feeling sick, stomach a crater,

Her glazed eyes opened with vision clear,

Blinking, blinking, at something queer.

The floor was clean where she had spat,

No trace of splotch, or splitch, or splat.

Beside her cot on wooden box,

Eight labra candles lit the rocks,

Of four dirt walls, in which she found,

Herself imprisoned. Underground.

The labra candles also lit,

Pictures and pictures, bit by bit,

On every wall and in every space,

Hung with careful planned out grace.

Picking the candles slowly up,

One hand on shaft, one hand flames cupped,

Poepi peered with great conjecture,

At the contents of each picture.

Brush painted all, in oils and inks,

With splendid colors, whites and pinks,

Some hung simple, some in frames,

Some were torn, some smoked by flames.

Some were also splendid and bright,

Colors warm, scenes pure delight.

Great green fields and bluest skies,

Faces in them lit with eyes.

But most of those were sparsely strewn,

In one small corner of the room,

Arranged around an empty squaring,

Of missing painting, absent glaring.

And Poepi felt she should have known,

The missing image once there owned.

All other walls were covered starker,

With depictions much, much darker,

Of gloomy greys and of depression,

Of scenes of green and black oppression.

Faces in those were dull and bleak,

With hopeless eyes and hollow cheeks,

Mouths pursed thin in grim resolve,

Amid sad themes, that all revolved,

Around a great land’s transformation,

To poverty from lovely nation.

The cornerstone of all these pictures,

Was one mural marked with scriptures,

In which green lightnings rained down hard,

On every home, in every yard,

Blasting earth, cottage and vassal,

And most of all a massive castle.

Standing raging, mean, defiant,

At center of all, stood the giant.

From there the images devolved,

Shown forests cut, tilled earth dissolved,

People wandering convoluted,

Streams, rivers, and lakes polluted,

Great wide gashes in open fields,

Shipping ore and metal yields,

By toiling workers hard maligned,

Sifting rocks and diamonds mined.

Other scenes, were far more mean,

Of hands and legs all chained between,

Of jeering crowds and scapegoat bleaters,

Of sticks and pics in warring theaters.

And every speck of painted tilth,

Depicted bleak industrial filth.

Poepi considered all these scenes,

And wondered hard who it had been,

To paint them with such detailed care,

As if the artist had been there.

There came a sudden clank and creak,

From above like floorboard squeaks,

A crash, a thud, a splash of water,

Chopping sounds of food and fodder.

Not much later, quite soon after,

Poepi heard weird sounding laughter,

And saw a square crack on the ceiling,

That sent her hiding, sent her reeling,

To throw herself flat on the floor,

When square crack opened like a door.

Bright bold lights shone down above,

And long tall ladder, carved with doves,

Dropped down slowly, and came to rest,

As voice to Poepi made behest.

“Come up! Come up!” the small voice said.

And through the hole, popped down a head,

With wisps of fluffy tufty hair,

Its big eyes darting here and there.

A bon bon nose, a tiny mouth,

Scrunched up tight, searched north and south.

A bony arm, splotchy and red,

With spider fingers poorly fed,

Hung straight down, dangling sore,

And swung waving at the floor.

A moment later, fingers scratched

The scalp, its chin, while arm that matched,

Pointed fingers right at Poepi.

And looked at her, like she was dopey.

“Don’t worry Princess! Don’t be fearing!”

Said little fellow, disappearing.

“I’ve set hot food upon my table,

I am not foe, but friend and able!”

The smell of something hot and cooked,

Waffed down into the nook,

Where Poepi had herself hid under.

Her stomach growled and she wondered,

How long it was since she had eaten.

Courage up and fear down beaten,

She stood and walked up to the ladder,

Stepping slowly, each foot gladder.

And when her head popped through the floor,

She met with spartan sight décor.

Poepi entered a one room shack,

Where windows framed the front and back.

The floor was laid with foot worn wood,

And carpet thrown hid floor door good,

With weaving rough and fringes frayed,

Just like the curtains, simply made.

Round pine table made of scrap,

Scarred and covered burly-lap,

Took one corner of the room,

As opposite, the kitchen loomed.

There a fire and stewing pot,

Cooked hot in a corner spot.

And walking over to the table,

A little man, filled bowls with ladle.

Poepi approached him, slowly, slowly,

Gripping her skirts, shoulders lowly,

And took a chair and slid it in,

Without words, and hungry chin.

Bright little man said “have some soup!”

Hot serving her a broth of roots,

“We have, we have, much much to do!

Now that your mind has come to you!

Your friends are slaves down in the mines,

For three days now, with beaten behinds.

Persephony chained them up with locks,

And now they labor breaking rocks,

Labeled traitors, slaves and boobies,

Hunting diamonds, coal and rubies.”

Poepilandia had nothing to say.

It having been her longest day,

Her mind was spinning and confused,

How did she get here, what had transpused?

Who was this man all little and aged,

Covered in splotches, paint she waged,

By the colorful spots on his skin,

Trousers, and apron, thick and thin.

“This is too much to recoup!”

Was what she thought, sipping her soup.

“There that’s better!” said the fellow,

He stood up then, fingers stained yellow,

“I have something for you to see,

Something once commissioned from me!”

And walked behind, a puzzled Poepi

Who couldn’t guess what this dopey,

Little man could make for her,

Her mind now thinking thoughts awhirr.

She had not seen it when she sat,

Her bottom on the warm chair mat,

Standing in the room’s third corner,

Tall and edgy, and covered over.

The little man pulled off its cover,

And held his work, just like a lover.

“What do you think? You like it eh?”

But Poepi had no words to say.

Sitting turned round in her chair,

She sat mouth opened, caught in stare.

After moments, in frozen stupe,

She rose amazed, and dropped her soup.

Her tired eyes could plainly see,

A portrait of her family.

"I’ve kept it hidden all these years,"

The small man said, bursting to tears,

"Before the coming of the giant,

And heroes left us, self reliant,

Before the flames and famines came,

Before the fights and blights and blames,

That sent us all to mining, rigging,

Down to the depths, for gemstone digging!".

Little man then hugged her legs,

And clasped his hands, and prayed and begged,

“I’d near lost faith and loyalty,

And wavered, almost, in my duty,

But always, clearly, I remembered,

The charge they gave me that December.

I’ve touched it up to look its best,

It should seem clean, it should seem fresh!”

He put his hands upon his hips,

Looking at her, licking his lips.

But Poepi heard barely a word,

Or felt the fellow kissing her gird,

Seeing only the paint brush traces,

In her parents’ life like faces.

Impossible as it may be,

This painting showed her family!

Her father stood with strength and pride,

Kingly and wise, on the left side,

Her mother as well, stood on the right,

Equally regal, kindly and bright.

Her sister and she stood there too,

Beneath them both, dressed up in blue.

All four pointed, to angled crest,

Austere and regal, stern and zest.

And on its breast, was drawn a rune,

A golden circle, inset by moon.

Behind Poepi’s mother, a fair castle loomed,

Behind Poepi’s father a giant rained doom,

Below both girls, heavy crowds stood,

Lined up in cues, yelling for blood.

Poepi reached out and touched the faces,

Tracing her mother and father’s smile spaces,

Tracing her sister’s child braided hair,

Tracing her self, and pausing long there.

But at last, she stretched her hand to the crest,

And put her palm on it, and let it there rest.

What did the rune mean? She thought she should know.

And as her palm pressed, she felt a warmth grow,

Until a small glow, started to show,

Under her skin, warm, and yellow.

Watching all this like an eagle,

Howling silent like a beagle,

The little man hopped, from right to left,

Rubbing his hands, fast and deft,

“So it is you! I only guessed,

When I saw your friends and the rest,

But you’re so grown I was not sure,

Your head and heart were still held pure.

I made this portal for your parents,

Under spells of songs and chants,

Just before the giant came,

There after hidden in his reign.

But now you’ve come to set things right!

Now you’ve come, to end our long night!

I knew it! I knew it! Despite the worst,

A princess puts her people first!

To save us from the Giant’s spurrage,

You must first unlock your courage!”

Chanting chanting, full of glee,

The little man danced happily,

Yet Poepi hardly heard him speak,

Her hand felt hot and tingly weak,

For to the painting it had stuck,

And though she pulled she could not pluck,

Her palm away, from the canvas,

And feared her death was come to pass.

She pushed against the corner frame,

And result was still the same,

Then magic painting glowing sparkled,

Its reds, its blues, its greys, its charcoals,

And the painted yellow crest,

Pulling Poepi to its test,

Stretched and strew, and grew and yawed,

Until it formed a mouth like maw.

Then the widened canvas hole,

Began to swallow Poepi whole!

Copyright 2013. PATG LLC. All rights reserved.