Corn Moon (Reprise)

Rosetta looked around the little store
To which her pioneering man had come
Across the prairies distant Boston from
Where she had lived till a few months before

From birth among the cultural elite
In chambers lofty, richly furnished, and
With graceful ornaments on every hand
Ay, thick, soft carpets underneath her feet

Her raiment sewn of fabrics smooth and soft
Gentle upon her sweetly pampered skin
Her dancing slippers flexible and thin
Sprung carriages bore her form aloft

To gatherings where others like her, who
After her servants drape and lace and squeeze
Did at last arrive at one of these
Without a single button aught askew

Would murmer inocuous pleasantries
Each other to in conversation’s name
Whilst footmen came and went, and went and came
In ceaseless effort lang’rous guests to please

No trouble did adoring parents spare
To shelter her from all unpleasantness
All struggle, all ill feeling, all duress
Every anxiety, fatigue and care

And then into her sheltered world had come
A man like none that she had ever met
About as different as one could get
The languid young men of her habit from

He stood so straight, he stood so strong and tall
Amid the gen’ral slouching elegance
With such a strong and manly countenance
So capable, so resolute withall

Uncompromised by venal platitude
And honest in a way she’d never felt
The sycophantic world in which she dwelt
Could be. His independent attitude

Toward advantage others compromise
All dignity and grace to seize and hold,
Sinewy form and mannerism bold
Deprived her of her customary sleep

Though doting parents doubted it was wise
And tried to dissuade her from her will
Frustration made her dangerously ill
“Better she marries him than that she dies”

They said to one another then, and so
Agreed to smile for her happiness’ sake
And gorgeous nuptial arrangements make
Then, though reluctant, let their daughter go

Impatient to be off and on his way
Her legal lord and master now become
Took her their imminent surveillance from
And started west that very self same day

Swiftly she learned that life with her new mate
Would very different be from the one
She’d left behind. All sense of love, of fun
Of laughter did he instantly deflate

Become a different man than he had been
When in her parents’ parlour she had glimpsed him first
Now did she see him — she thought — at his worst
Though, looking after, knew herself but green

And inexperienced to think this so
But be that as it may, without a care
For his wife’s dignity or her welfare
Ahead of her he straight commenced to go

Across the railway station’s waiting room
Leaving her forlornly trailing back
Already suffering from this new lack
Of any kind regard from her new groom

Still she knew not the venom of her curse
Uncomprehending yet of the true scale
Of shame a truly disrespectful male
May call upon: things went from bad to worse

When she had made her miserable way
At last to where he stood impatiently
Took her to task, required that she agree
Nowhere but closely at his side to stay

Then when they finally had reached their place
He made her put away her own valise
And nothing that she did seemed him to please
Disposing of that harmless little case

His concept of small talk was to complain
About the service and accommodations till
She saught every diversion to instil
Some small tranquility — she saught in vain

When he saw fit to cease his diatribe
He drew the daily paper from his kit
Ignoring her, began to read from it
To her sad disillusionment describe

Would be beyond even a poet’s pen
Suffice it to report each time it seemed
Things could not be more diff’rent than she’d dreamed
That they would be, they got yet worse again

Eager he was to spend her money on
His wagon and his team, and his supplies
Then turn his back upon the next sunrise
And start their endless prairie trek upon

Blistered and burnt her tender fingers grew
In tending to his every instant want
Sunburnt her skin, sunken her features, gaunt
Her body, while her heart despairing knew

With every plodding step the oxen by
With every turning of each creaking wheel
He took her further from where she could feel
Ever appreciated anybody by

Considered for her any comfort or
Complimented for a prettiness
In her demeanor, conversation, dress
Nor any pleasure she had known before

But cringe instead from blows threatened and real
Jump to command, learn how to mercy ask
Spend dawn to dusk moving from task to task
Even at waking never rested feel

She had but one forlorn remaining hope
That she might find a sister of the soul
Whose influence might help to keep her whole
As through the morass of her life she grope

But even this small hope came to its end
When she surveyed the women of the town
Whose street at last one day he drove her down
And knew that she would never find a friend

Among this haggard and unsmiling kind
Lips pursed, arms folded tight across the breast
Each one looking exactly like the rest
And each to any delicacy blind

Hair drawn severe and tightly back into
The plainest knot, skin shrivelled from the sun
Harsh hands which scrubbed and baked and milked and spun
Hearts which no small frivolity e’er knew

Stern watch upon the rest each woman made
Assuring none violated the code
A bow or lacing for its wearer bode
Her none but ill — for flaunting it she paid

The price of ostracism others from
Newcomers given were to understand
To self-adornment never put their hand
And presently did dim and drab become

Conforming to the expectations of
The only company they were to know
On those occasions into town they go
Away from whom they’d thought would be their love

Their comfort and support, grown taciturn
And inconsiderate, silent and mean
And when he had, as frequent, drinking been
Likely suddenly violent to turn

Even the town itself, but a raw scar
Two blocks by three upon the prairie grass
Held naught to lift the heart of our sad lass
To find a welcome there had come so far

Some rudely builded cabins in a row
Plank walks between them sinking in the dust
Which upward flew with every windy gust
Coating the people passing to and fro

Bare ugliness prevailed on every hand
Bereft of the benign tranquility
And beauty she had thought that there would be
Among those who lived closely on the land

Her husband hitched his team a rail unto
Left her to fend for her now pregnant self
In scrambling down off their wagon’s shelf
Her first glimpse of that gen’ral store to view:

Some dented lanterns hung the ceiling from
Barrels of beans and flour upon the floor
Some tins and blankets, and but little more
Were all of daily life where she had come

Then when they reached the land he purchased had
From that so promising appearing gent
Apparently not one word had he meant
Too clear to both it was that land was bad

The cabin that he built them, drafty, small
Ugly and bare, with fear and want within
In which to domesticity begin
Was never any home to her at all

So there would be in each day something good
Something other than drudgery and pain
So she might ever hope to smile again
She took to wand’ring in a nearby wood

Her husband liked this habit not a bit
Wanting her closer by, beneath his thumb
Longing for any carelessly thrown crumb
Of false affection or juvenile wit

He might see fit to give; mistrusted that
Radiance which she, all unaware
Emanated after going there
Though her defiance beatings her begat

She woke in darkness, whilst he stilly slept
In the chill early hours of the morn
Drew her cloak over her expanding form
Then from that house of misery she crept

To spend an hour among green growing things
Listing to the creek’s babbling play
Smelling the freshly dew encrusted clay
In the tranquility solitude brings

And there, as yet another day began
While watching peacefully the world reborn
Hearing birds carol to the new made morn
She face to face came — with an Indian!

They opposite within the clearing stood
Opposite in nature as in place
One pale and one more darkly colored face
Mysteriously both swift understood

Here was the sister for whom she had longed
Many an endless and a sleepless night
Each in astonishment at the fair sight:
The name of Woman to them both belonged!

The native maiden lowered first the bow
Which had its arrow cocked straight to her heart
And then Rosetta swiftly, for her part
Extended empty hands, silent to show

That no threat she intended to her new
Strangely familiar sister, rather she
Only closer wished them swiftly be
Which, by touching her heart, the other knew

They sat them there the laughing creek beside
Two women come from very far away
To meet, upon that spot, upon that day
One dressed in flowing muslin like a bride

And the companion sitting by her side
Covered from neck to toe in clothes of skin
One round and full her fecundity in
The other stringy, lean, and taut with pride

With not one word of language them between
They found themselves many another way
To tell each other all they had to say
As from the beginning it has always been

Among two folk of truly willing heart
And open mind and humble spirit, nor
The other’s customs see fit to deplore
Once two such symbolic communion start

Ideas leap from one the other to
As ’twere by no mere earthly agency
For smiles and gestures universal be
And so between the new met sisters grew

An understanding deeper than the word
One of the spirit, of the heart and hand
Nor failed each other quick to understand
Voices by other than the ears are heard

She told her name: Corn Moon. Where she was raised
Although it was unusual for her
Hunting over home life to prefer
When they saw how eagerly she gazed

Away from women’s tasks the prairie to
Accommodation was to talent made
Respect to her abilities was paid
And she initiated hunters’ rites into

And like Rosetta, though she did intend
With all her native passion, deep and strong
To know companionship women among
It had been hard for her to find a friend

Another woman unalike her breed
With courage to think independently
And from constrictive mores struggle free
Had found Rosetta in her hour of need

Each and every sunrise, from that day
They would the laughing water sit beside
The longings of feminine hearts confide
Or one her head upon the shoulder lay

Of her discovered sister, then they’d both
Together watch the coming of the day
The birds and little animals at play
Then, though to part the two were ever loath

Must separate, one to her cabin go
The other scouting for the hides and meat
Her villagers would need to wear and eat
But, as they went, new happiness would know

Rosetta had something for which to live
A gleam of happiness her day within
Knowing the next one destined to begin
With sympathy only a friend can give

And if some morning or the next upon
One or the other had been called away
Her sister for a little while would stay
And bless her from a distance in the dawn

And then contentedly would slip away
Leaving perhaps a gift the other for
If she return its giver there before
Several loving months passed in this way

And then one night their evening meal before
Rosetta’s husband ordered her to stay
At home the next and every other day
Her morning walk forbidden evermore

Regarding her with a dark, threat’ning brow
He said, “You have heard this before
But this time you had better listen, for
I’ll shoot you if you disobey me now”

Rosetta knew no sleep at all that night
Her friend would never understand why she
No longer came with her each day to be
She would feel sorrow, anger, disappointment, fright

On her sister’s behalf and on her own
Deprived of any explanation, she
Eventual must disillusioned be
And feel herself still sadly more alone

Than she had been the other’s love before
Destined to solitude grown doubly sad
By contemplation of what they had had
Never such harmony to know the more

Rosetta simply could not bear to be
The agent of her sister’s misery
She slipped out of the bed gradually
Of sheet and coverlet set herself free

Her body rose as ’twere upon its own
Though the sad night were only halfway passed
She felt the need for action firm and fast
Of her husband she terrified had grown

And knew, should she slow preparation make
Think of what she might bring, and what to wear
She’d be violently sequestered there
Were he before her clean escape to wake

The woods were darker in the dead of night
Than in the growing twilight of predawn
Rosetta latched the gate and set upon
Her wild and unprepared, desperate flight

She did not know what the next day would bring
Nor understand how she the night would pass
Waiting for her friend there on the grass
Until the early birds began to sing

She brought no food nor money, nor knew where
Or how would end her swift instinctive flight
Whether give in to apathy and fright
Returning home to meet her husband there

Or unprotected take her to the road
Which headed East, though twixt that and this place
Rowdy and primitive the wagon trace
As did no single female wellness bode

She knew but one thing only — deeply knew
That she could never willingly betray
Her sisterhood in such a careless way
That e’en should she the action rue

Till her remaining time came to an end
Nay, even if she should tomorrow die
Her baby never have a chance to cry
She had to find a way to see her friend

When as she heaven had heartfelt beseeched
She stumbling into the clearing came
She heard her sister’s voice cry out her name
And strong arms outward to receive her reached…

Then as the moon arose and as it fell
With arms about each others’ shoulders they
Considered how to make Rosetta’s way
One which might see her flourishing and well

By her companions deeply understood
Supported her community well by
And in the dawning, softer than a sigh
Two sisters disappeared into the wood

Her soul light as a helium balloon
Rosetta set her steps for the unknown
This time, however, no longer alone
Homeward beside her sister soul, Corn Moon!

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