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 Sleep Of  No Dreams

Written by Paul Landis Delaune

     The evening’s creatures sing their unchanging melody of romance and lust, as living
lanterns frolic in the cool darkness.  Overhead shines a bright moon, bathing the trees and
brush in its silver light.  Night has come as the distant sun retires for the night until beginning
once more its endless journey in a blaze of divine majesty.  Now is the time the gods
walk about; their whisperings rustle a leaf here, a blade of grass there.

     All this comes to me as in awe I listen to the miraculous beauty of creation.  Warm do I rest;
my weary bones wrapped in the dank, rich earth.  Seemingly forever have I lain here – the
memory of my name lost in the stories of my people.  No more do I sit around the night-fires;
no more does my bow bring meat to the bellies of my village.  My life’s flame has
been extinguished by death, my body devoured by corruption.

     How I laugh at the wisdom of the shaman!  For where are the hunting grounds of the
heroic warrior, the salvation and the torment of the missionary’s god?  Only stillness
and the groaning of one’s soul linger beyond the touch of death’s hand.  No Great Spirit
leads me to lands abounding with game; no father of the eagle teaches my feet the paths of
the sky.  All is gone.  Nothing remains but the sounds surrounding my grave.

     I was on the trail of blood, seeking enemies with whom to prove my manhood.  Only in the
victory of battle and the counting of coup could I be considered a man, a warrior,
by my people and by my enemies.  Only then would my name by sung in the night, my
exploits of bravery remembered in the counsels of the chiefs.  Often had I ventured forth
with my brothers in quest of honor and blood.

     But such was not to be mine.  Instead did another’s blade prove swifter than my own; instead
did my hair hang in a strange tent that night.  No song was sung in my honor upon my
fellow’s return.  Not even a death song was mine, for I perished quickly.  All my dreams and
desires for tomorrow were shattered in one brief struggle.

     I wonder if she remembers me or has my memory vanished in the arms of another.  She was
beautiful and strong was my love for her from the first instant our eyes met.  But at that time
I could not vie for her in marriage, as I had not yet ventured on the path to manhood.  No man
had claimed her and I hoped none would.  When I proved myself, I would approach her
father with my gift.

     I hid in the shrubbery when she went forth to gather nuts and roots, gazing upon her every
movement, every trim line of her lovely figure.  Many an afternoon I spent engrossed in my
admiration for her. Slowly, my boldness increased and I broached a word with her.  She
ignored me, but I persisted and she began to listen.  She listened, for my words weren’t idle
boasts as of other men.  Instead I spoke from my heart and such words always ring true.

     My words were true, for I loved her more than all else.  I longed to accompany her always
and began to be with her often, as her trust in me grew.  To touch her was forbidden, but as
our feelings strengthened, we dared share our love.  Always was this in some secluded spot
concealed from the eyes of others.  Only for the moment did we live, for we
knew not what uncertainties the future would bring.

     In order to preserve our desire for one another, I had to prove my manhood in combat.
She feared for me and liked not my leaving on my hazardous errand.  However, I was the
proper age and it was necessary if I was to have a place among my peers.  Often
I went out on the warpath and always I returned empty-handed. Following each return,
she and I were together again, and each time with her was more precious than the
time before.

     Then I crossed paths with the ghost of death and my courage proved useless; my skill ineffective.
Victory was not mine as I felt the pain of mortal injury and the horror of my life fading from me.
For one last time I laid down my head – never to rise again.  Soft was the earth beneath
me and gentle was the breeze upon my face.  I breathed my last with no one to bid me farewell other
than my assailant, who took me unawares and tarried not.

     No more does my heart beat within my breast, but still my love for her lives, lost in the sleep
of no dreams.  Though the cold earth has long since drained my blood, my passion for her
continues to burn.  Death is maddening, but in the absence of life there is no insanity.
There is only solitude.  Silently and alone, I listen to the sounds surrounding my resting-place and
remember the wonder of her love.