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by Angela Slatter

The minstrel made a harp of my sister's bones, polished and shaped them as he needed. He used the silken threads of her hair for strings; plangent, guilt-inducing.

It had seemed such a simple thing to push her over the seawall, to watch her founder and splash and drown. To think that was the end of it all. The wedding day came and I could not feel joy. I took no pleasure in my husband’s face, nor in the thought of our life together, of what lay ahead. Each time I looked at him and tried to smile, all I could see was him aging before my eyes, faster and faster, becoming death.

When the minstrel arrived, his strange instrument on his back, I was grateful for the distraction. He plucked at the strings and it seemed they had anchors in my stomach for the noise wrenched at me. He played my shame, for all to witness; my sister's bones singing our story for wedding feast guests to hear.

It was simple enough to take the harp from the minstrel's hands - he gave it up easily, as if he knew it was his only to borrow - and I walked from the hall. I took to the roads, earning my keep with the bones of my sister, singing over and over. I wear my guilt like a cloak, begging forgiveness as a beggar does alms.

My days are cold and lonely, cut adrift from all things that might once have afforded me comfort: husband, hearth, home. Worse still are the nights when she sings me to troubled sleep, her strings moving of their own volition, her voice something that drops through the air like bitter rain. And the sound of the sea, the crash and swell of it just as it was the day I threw her in comes back to haunt me like a refrain.

It would be easy, I suppose, to throw her in once again, to tie something heavy to these polished bones and let her sink into the green darkness; to drown her a second time. But I cannot let her go. I did so once and it was, I now know, my greatest loss. So I keep my penance close, to pierce me like a bone through the heart.


Magnificent. A perfect subtle
retelling of the ballad, a
candlelit journey into the silent world between the notes.

Posted by: Captain Pat | December 19, 2008 6:01 PM

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Posted by: rorUnsado | September 26, 2010 3:12 AM

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Posted by: rorUnsado | September 29, 2010 10:05 PM

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