I was the magistrate
And by my word
A man might live or die
And so feared my darkened eye
That all connection died
In crisp dissolution
And it devolved that I
The magistrate
Was cursed by majesty

I watched a woman
I had damned
Wind her way singing
Up the spiral stair
Where the hard hemp
Would wind its coils
About her long white throat

And before the song
Was snapped silent
In mid note
It infected me
And I could no longer
Face that face that glared
Back from the glass
That hung there on the wall
Like a dead thing on a gibbet

I lost the feel for it
And when the wheel turned on me
I thought to kiss the rope
But fear does not die easy
And they turned me out
To set my foot upon the road
Where all doors closed to me

Blood red robes
Stitched with blackened threads
Marked me for death
But no one dared
No one stepped across my path
No one barred my way
Or refused my passage
Until I came to the sea

I thought to beat my soul
Upon the rocks
To break the vessel of my spirit
Into the sharpest shards
And let the tide take me
To the depths that I had dug
The pit upon the tip
Of the abyss that is the door
To Hell

But the sea in purity
Refused me
And spat me out
A putrid taste
A loathsome laidly worm
That even death could not stomach

I stripped the damning robes
And howled beneath the moon
Ran unshod and naked
Through the rocks
And cut myself with stone
Until I could not see
For the bloodied thing
That had been me
And all those I had taken
Reached out clawing hands
But would not take me

I lay upon the beach
And that slip of a moon
Silvered all but me
Would not touch the shadow
That was me

It was a thing I saw
A woman thing I think
A hunched and wizened
Wrinkled bag of a thing
Squatted there beside me
On stringy haunches
Salty from the sea

Large feet and twisted toes
Grizzled hump of a back
And eyes lost in black holes
That would not admit light
A demon of the desert
That crept toward me
On those boneless haunches
Reached talons to rake the sand away
And touched a thirsting tongue
To hot blood

I cried out then for Death
Spoke my own sentence
And damned my soul with judgment
But I was magistrate no longer
And the uncaring gods
Refused my condemnation
And lay the curse of life on me

Rough but gentle
She was brutal
And she was kind
The sting of salt tears
Washed me dry
And the relentless tongue
Grated its way
Across my flesh
And left me clean

She squatted beside me
Through the night
And roasted sand rats
Over a whining fire
Picked at her teeth
And watched me
From some great depth
I could not fathom

In the morning
She was gone
And in her place
Filthy rags
Peasant breeches
And a rough blouse
That just fit my frame

I walked out a catkin
New born and blind
Mewling without a mother
And taken for mad upon the road
But there were those now
Who took me in
Those who gave me meal
Water for the journey
And a place in sweet straw
On long cold nights
I stopped for work once
And they took me in
Gave me clothes
And stout leather
To cobble into shoes
But I could not stay
In their clean house
In their clean barn
Their clean hay
And when they reached for me
I could not touch
Their clean hands

And so I have come here
To this place among the rocks
Where none may take
My condemnation from me
And if I may not burn
I shall at least
Share your fire