by Laura Maria Somenzi
The Queen’s Justice
To the queen let the decree be brought. To the queen, to the queen. She alone will see that the scales tip right. Bring the letter, the verdict to be chosen in just accord. To the queen, to the queen we go. Enthroned she sits, her role prescribed. Her scales are set, her reason weighs the choice. To the queen, to the queen we march.
Once upon a time was a queen in purple robe. She sat on a throne in a golden palace, where she had sat for hundreds of years. So long had she sat in her throne that the golden patterns of her robe had faded and fallen to dust. So long had she sat in her throne that she had come to know the deep and unquestioning confidence of she who discerns right from wrong. So she sat in her golden palace, encrusted in gems, and listened to time tell its tales of the errors of man, of misdeeds unseen, of glories unsung. So long she sat on her throne that she learned to listen to the air between words, to see the space between forms. Each year, summer’s sun gave way to autumn’s dust and winter’s freeze. Each year the spring breeze stirred the debris before July’s short shadows settled in stone. With each passing year, the queen took note of those things that do change and those that do not.
One spring, the wind made its way around the cracks of the palace door and there began to move back and forth until finally the wooden boards gave way. The door opened and three emissaries, heads covered in linen, came through. They had travelled from afar, they had heard of the queen on her throne. They had heard that she guarded knowledge within her and that her wisdom drew from the whispers of nature. So they had waited for the change of the season. For winter to thaw and for spring to push its course through. And so they arrived in April of that year as the skies cleared in crystal agitation.
The three had a letter. A message from the king of their land, a choice to be made. Their footsteps resounded off the stone path that led to the queen’s throne, announcing their haste. So the queen heard. So she understood. The three arrived in her hall of gold, filling a space that for long had not bent from the weight of others. The stones creaked, the walls curved, the ceiling compressed. The queen felt their weight, she calibrated her scales. The letter passed hands with a rush of air. The gesture was enough, the queen seated on her throne had accepted the charge: to choose for an unknown people what shape was justice to have. She listened to time and began to draw the lines.
The King’s Hand and Crown
There once was a statue of a king who stood on a column in a forgotten square overgrown with weeds in a town, so peripheral to everything no one cared to give it a name. The square was at the fringe of a precipice and no one quite knew how to reach it, if not by a back road covered in dust from disuse. The town itself was a couple of stone houses, irregular in the placement of their bricks from long and slow years of erosions. A butcher, a tailor and a blacksmith lived with their wives in the three central houses facing a derelict church. Further down an abandon path lived an old widow and her granddaughter. No one else lived in the town. No one left and no one arrived.
No one ever went to the square at the farthest edge of the hill, but all knew it was there. All knew that through the tall grass and ivy stood a statue of a king, their king. With an arm raised and pointed finger, and with a crown encircled by laurel, it was impossible to believe anyone ruled that town if not the king. No one else had a crown. No one else had the energy to raise a hand with such pointed decision. So the statue stood, and as long as it stood, no one left the town and no one arrived.
But one day the blacksmith found that he had no more metal to fuse. He had run out of nails, he had run out of horseshoes. He knew of the king and he knew he was gold. The flickers of light reflected between the tall grasses at high noon: that he knew because he had once seen the specks from afar. So he told his wife he was going to stroll, as he walked heavily to the door between the slow flutter of curtains and robes.
He picked up his cane and walked down to the fringe of the hill. Over tall grasses and through woven weeds. He found the right path and hacked his way through.
In the center of the square, on the column, stood the king, arm raised and crown high. So the blacksmith saw him, so he took him off that column with all the ivy and weeds wound on his body.
Just a small piece of gold, thought the blacksmith, just a hand and a crown. No more no less. Then I shall place him back on his column with grasses and ivy and no one shall know. So he did as he desired and took the hand and the crown, placed them in a sack and returned on the road.
The sun was now low and the dust reddish in tone. He passed the widow’s home, oddly dark, he thought. She must have gone out. He arrived in the square with the church and the three houses. But could not see his own, now that the sun had set and no candles were lit. Making his way in the dark he found his own steps. Empty his house. No wife in sight. No noise came from the butcher and none from the tailor. He placed his sack on the ground. There lay the hand and the crown. All had gone, but one had arrived.