Mihaela Melnic (Western Voices 2023)

Bio: Mihaela Melnic is the author of the bilingual poetry collection Change of Seasons, 2018, and co-author of the poetry and short fiction book Evermore, 2021, 17Numa Press. She lives and writes in Rome, Italy. Her work was published in various literary venues both online and in print.
Links to her publications can be found at her website: https://telluricverse.wordpress.com/



Sickle Moon


When the dusk seeps through the ivy on the red-walled house, 
where in the daytime fairies sing and at night the spirits howl, 
the mulled wine unchains the tongues as the Moon rises in the sky. 

The cold, erratic like a servant escaped from his master's home, 
creeps inside the house, the bodies, propping right into the bones
as the fire entwines its tongues, flickering into the coal. 

There were two soldiers in days gone, but who remembers their names? 
Whatever they had fought for, is as mysterious as life itself. 
Peace on Earth is mere legend and, oh, so vain is every war… 

                                             ***


The road unravels at their feet stretching out like yarned wool 
through cypresses as sharp and tall as a king's guards in a fort
with their ridges piercing deeply into the soft platinum clouds. 

Their coats flutter in the wind as they rhythmically walk. 
They're two bridegrooms who are rushing to their young, virginal spouses. 
Ah, if only they could make it to the shrine of blissful love... 

As the night grows darker and ancient and the snow bites at their heels,
on the horizon, a dim light lures them on a path of risk. 
Solitary, the Moon grins in the firmament of pitch. 

Like sirens before the glances of greedy sailors lost at sea
the cemetery's gate is singing in the gusts of winter's breath. 
If only a merciful entity had locked it and thrown off the key...

The two soldiers, strong in spirit, mesmerized, slip their shapes in
roaming through the tombs and halting by a marble baldaquin. 
The night's cloak envelopes them like the blurred mind wraps wild dreams. 

Still aware of cold and hunger and of the craters in their boots 
they pay homage to a fallen general; a gesture quite dutiful. 
The Sickle Moon surveilles the graveyard through twisted branches of bare trees. 

Stomping their feet upon the soil, they blow steam into their fists 
when their Fate, a lunatic, uninvited, creeps right in. 
Unpredictable life is, like God's wrath or his divine kiss. 

Fate never batters with a bat, nor with lightning she strikes.  
She binds mankind to herself with a knot hard to untie. 
With a scale she is endowed; she weighs, measures and pays off. 

                                        ***

As life awaits them beyond the gates, an iron nail clings to a shoe;
a nail just as thick and long as those of Christ upon his cross. 
The Moon shivers in the sky and from off her head removes the crown. 

"Hammer it here, into this grave!" Intones the mouth of one of them. 
The same old game, a mindless dare, meant to weave sacred with profane. 
The cypresses moan in the wind trembling like sick men caught in seizures. 

Without lingering in thinking, the one returning home a hero, 
finds and collects the largest stone as Fate comes closer to his bones. 
Like women widowed of their spouses, the willows chant lugubrious dirges. 

Even the pines wail, so does the moss. Trees' roots stretch out beyond control
seeking for lymph outside the source like moribunds gasping for air. 
A tree log fails to bar his way. If only ghosts tied him in place... 

The soldier kneels upon the ground, flaps of his coat spread all around. 
With a cursed blow he sends the nail right to the nucleus of the grave. 
And so wild his heartbeat is, like a tribe of ghouls in feast... 

One clean stroke, the nail is fixed. "Now," he thinks, "up on my feet!"
But something seems to hold him back. The Moon and stars behold upset. 
Lost in the labyrinth of his lungs, his breath quivers and then halts. 

A snake bounces around his heart, throughout his ribs, stirring his brains. 
His blood thickens in his veins, the ice pearls on his forehead. 
His thoughts unhinge themselves from reasoning. Emptiness and silence reign. 

Something pulls him to the abyss. All of his hair suddenly whitens. 
His mind rewinds all of his life up to the days in his mother's lap. 
The Sickle Moon up in the sky tries to recover a wounded star. 

He spends his last breath seeing clearly his mother's face, his unborn children, 
hoping that Hell has its own Heaven to make the afterlife worth living. 
The Moon motherly skims his forehead and sends the dying star his way. 


                                                ***

The reckless hero falls sideways: a coat's flap in the grave was nailed. 
The other soldier, distraught, wonders if Fate strikes those who wield weapons. 
The astral queen bitterly grins while pouring onto them her gleam. 

A beastly roar poisons the air; they were two brothers, one was elder;
two lion cubs playing with death but, Time is insane and he loves Fate.
The night is black, they were naïve, and now Fate lurks around his feet. 
 
He glances at the firmament and sees the Moon tolling the bell; 
another star has passed away. Pain echoes in the outer space. 
A shiver runs along his spine either for fear or cold. He's damned... 

If only the ghosts frightened them off… 
If only they stumbled upon a log… 
If only the gates had a thousand padlocks... 

Life and Death walk hand in hand until the hourglasses break. 
In the red house the fire wanes. The walls are tinged with reminiscence. 
Two brothers had left peace for war but only one returns back home. 

What will he carry on his lips? Where is the glory in all this? 
How could he face his parents’ grief? His heart is overthrown by guilt.
At the altar his real bride will be Repentance for a lifetime. 

He puts his hand upon his gun. The queen of skies, locked inside, mourns. 
The stars are purple in their aching. The soldier's heart is a lump of tar.
"How can I bare this weight in life?" The Sickle Moon averts her glance. 

                                               ***

"If at night you search for Eden, when the sky is clear and smooth, 
myriads of stars you'll see... They are my iron nails, be sure." 
This is engraved on a holy tomb. 

But if you wander through the mist during your life's most bitter dream, 
you'll come across a shapeless mound with only a bullet as headstone. 
The cross is missing but the sky spreads over it a merciful shroud.
***

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