The City Walls
Lisa Vogel

The sun is bright and warm, the ceremonies long.  We watch the next man in chains bow low to the next woman acting as Her Highness Supreme.  As he chants the sacred prayer, each man in line around the edge of the ring, through the dank passageway, and along the road takes one step forward.

Suddenly we at the very top of the arena think to turn and look. Surely the final confessor is not long in coming? But the line still stretches to the city wall. Each time the gate inches open another man slips in. Outside, we know, the men continue to plunder, to pillage and maim. The wisest among us knows no cure.

There are also secret gates, formerly believed to have been for the gods. Of these the men know nothing. Nor will the women tell, though all have entered once: at a river bed edged by vertical cliffs, through a desert with no recorded rain, on a mountaintop capped by unmeltable snow.

Even these days a woman in the wilds must fight her way through the throng of men to find her gate. She carries neither compass or map, water or food. Arriving after years of questing, her story cannot be told.

We bring her to the arena and dress her as Her Highness Supreme. Only when her confessor is cast back outside the city walls after the ceremony does she begin to cleave whole. Always, we cry as we cheer.

First published: August 2000