Carrying Prince Connol's shrouded body
down to the moonlit harbor,
the fishermen and the soldiers sang.
Mei, waiting in the largest fishing boat,
neither wailed nor wept for her husband.
Softly the men sang Connol's dirge
as they positioned his body
in a wicker coracle within the large boat.
Mei, pregnant, queasy, gagged on the smell
of myrrh, mackerel, decay.
Six men rowed her to sea,
singing the dirge in time to the stroke,
the fleet of fishing boats following.
Mei blinked away sea spray,
not tears. She hadn't loved Connol.
The men rowed, their voices rising
the further out they went,
the song echoed from the other boats.
Mei had scorned Connol as a barbarian:
insolent, insulting, insufferable.
The men stopped. Stopped singing.
One man handed Mei a flaming torch.
Slowly Connol's patience, his kindness,
had crept in upon Mei.
Wind, water against the hull. No voices.
The men lowered the coracle
into the waves and rowed clear.
Mei tossed the torch down on Connol.
The flame caught on his shroud.
All the men on all the boats
turned then to Mei,
and she sang, clear-voiced,
not the funeral dirge, but a lullaby,
not in Connol's language, but her own,
while the fire burnt out.
(First published in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review)