Poor Lady Bea
‘midst fly and flea.
Beast’s burden clipped
to add postscript
to life foul-gripped,
cruel-binned in crypt.
She calls me her one true love, and perhaps I am, for I do love her and have loved her since my eyes first opened.
My place is at her heel. That is where I belong.
She reads me stories and calls me her knight-errant.
I love her, but my love cannot save her, neither from the greed that surrounds her nor the weakness of her own heart.
She calls me her darling, her joy.
Sometimes her eyes are hungry. Sometimes she bids me lie beside her.
I do, but as soon as her breath evens, I slip to the rug.
She calls me her handsome lad. She brushes my coat for hours, stroke by stroke, from pleasure to numbness.
My favourite hour is when we visit the stables. Only then is there a bit of slack in the lead of her love. While she showers affection on the Shoscombe Prince, I sneak away to watch the Duke.
He is slower than the Prince but not nearly as haughty.
I watch his galloping legs. I woof my shameless appreciation.
He trots toward the fence. He bends his head.
I sniff. He sniffs.
He snorts. I bark. We race.
But far too soon the race is over.
She calls me her everything, her God and her all.
Poor Lady Beatrice.
Her hand reaches for me, then droops.
I bark my alarm, my fear, and, as it turns out, my farewell.
They smell fouler than ever. They carry her away.
I am her knight-errant. My place is by her side!
I follow. I bark.
They remove her to the well-house.
I howl their treachery, my pain, into the night’s sky.
My love! My lady! Trapped!
My place is by her side!
I flee the inn as soon as I arrive.
Mad for the loss of her, I am tethered and left to mourn in a corner.
Until a fellow arrives asking what I am worth.
To one, I am worth everything.
Her God and her all!
The fellow takes my lead.
We journey home.
My lady! My love!
Loosed, I charge!
Not her, but a beast wrapped in her scents and her sounds.
Where is she, you blackguard?
“…Dogs don’t make mistakes…”
This fellow is an intelligent breed. I might offer my services as companion if the position were not already filled.
I remain at his heel for the afternoon. My reward is a handsome trout, the first food that has tempted since her hand drooped.
At night, I follow this smart fellow to the old chapel and
I fly to Duke’s stall. In the morning, when they try to remove me, he makes such a disturbance that they allow me to stay. After that, I spend most of my days around the stables, free come and go as I please.
Oh, the leadless life!
Sometimes, I howl for sheer joy.
My love for her fades with every butterfly chased. There is no heel, no hunger, nothing to beg obedience, save a memory.
This memory I keep, however, for a little while longer. I was never her knight-errant, but I find myself very much wanting to be her avenger.
I watch him, the one who so often made her cry and curse and reach for me, and after many moons, I spy him heading towards the old chapel.
I hurry ahead of him and silently flatten myself across one of the steps that lead down to the stone box which holds her bones.
When the moment arrives, his boot is so sharp and heavy that I fear it may break my back in half. Nevertheless, when its weight and its violence are upon me, I summon all her love and distill all my rage.
Neither his scream of terror nor his gasp of comprehension nor even the snap of his neck is drowned out by my barking.