To be honest, I didn’t know Baz or Casper
before we took the trip. We studied
in different cities and my focus was on the history of stars
while Casper predicted movement. Neither of us
know what Baz studied exactly, but it was good
having him around.
Many nights over the small flame of our fire
we guessed at why the dream chose us,
and most days I wondered if I was a fool
to leave my life’s work for a single light.
Traveling west we saw the far reaches
of an empire whose gold leafed crown
would wrap around the head of every
nation if it could. I didn’t mind the welcome
given to us by its governors and princes,
the cold limoncello and soft cheeses, the grapes
brought to our mouths by slender bangled wrists;
But there was something about that king—rouged
and fat, chewing a leg of meat, feeding us like we
were to be eaten next, asking exactly who it was
we were off to see—that reminded me not to be a man
given to appetite. I closed my eyes to the women
and remembered there was somewhere
I was supposed to be going.
The last days of travel were quiet, thirsty days,
full of dust and flies. Nights we slept close in the dark,
because Baz insisted we not light any fires. We argued
about whether we were on course and what we were
looking for in the first place until we found ourselves
under the star, at the door of a house.
It was nothing really. A poor place and the girl
who answered the door was about fourteen, with a naked baby
looking out at us from behind her skirts where he stood.
Casper shoved me and I almost spoke, but didn’t.
Baz knelt, and that decided it. I lowered myself to my knees
right in the doorway, and as I did I felt something
no book has ever been able to explain. Some strange peace,
the sound of beating wings filled the air and the child laughed.
We unloaded our treasures and as we did his mother’s
face was wet with tears. She didn’t look at the spices,
she wasn’t marveling at the cost. Her head was tilted,
her mouth slightly open as if dreams she’d had
were playing out before her. It was enough,
her silent grace, the child’s laugh–to answer at least
the only question worth asking. We left at dusk
into a different world than we had come from.
The first sleep in the desert brought us the same nightmare;
a slaughter of children and the rouged king’s laughter
heard above the moan of young mothers. We parted ways
in the dark, with a vow to never look for each other again
for fear of killing the King we’d found.
Did we find what we were looking for, or were we meant
to find something that would take all of history to unravel?
I think about Baz, face to the ground in that doorway,
when a star falls suddenly from the sky and wind blows out the last embers of fire.
©Amy Leigh Wicks