The Wooden Sword

The stars belt on their blades.
They shoulder on their cloaks.
Everything up there as here is war.
in my bedroll on the black field, If I sleep
I dream sounds from their watch-fires. So
I cannot sleep, I think of you.
Have you taken proper care?
I fear these last few days you
may have eaten from a beast
killed by spear. You may have
unthinking oiled your body.
Did you let another woman
cut your hair? These prohibitions,
there are many to forget.

Sometimes you seemed uncertain of us
There by the well in tree-shade,
also later. Now keep faith.
As husband I will bring you satisfaction.
Paint yourself white with beads and charms,
and in the dance
wear the wooden sword for me.

Tomorrow some of us will kill some of us.
Men we are stones. Pushed, we roll
downhill. What else can pushed stones do?
This is the world.

I think you have remembered me.
You have not slept indoors, or in the day.
You will raise the cry with the others,
joyed to see your husband coming up the road.

But if I am delayed
find me after harvest day.
Burn the honorary torch,
and wait.


Ray Nayler

About Ray Nayler

Ray Nayler’s poetry has been published in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Weave, Juked, Able Muse, Sentence, Phantom Limb, and many other magazines. His novel American Graveyards was published in the UK by Third Alternative Press. His cross-genre short stories have been published or are upcoming in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and the Berkeley Fiction Review, among others. He is a Cultural Affairs Officer with the Department of State, currently posted to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. You can follow him and find links to his work at
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