Cock and Bull

Elizabeth Barrette

The Old World is older than maps,
and harbors sorrows older than dirt.
Who knows what myths may spring
from that ancient earth,
when watered with fresh red blood?

The tourist comes, a girl in summer’s first flush,
with amber hair and indigo eyes,
her alabaster skin a stark contrast to the
brown on brown on brown around her.
She thinks herself unbeautiful for being
plump as the big black hens pecking
for crumbs in the cornerhouse yard.

Then she hears, whispered,
that one who lives in the cornerhouse
can sell to her the beauty that she craves,
for a full and worthy price.
So she goes, American and unlearned
in the elder lore, to the door at midnight –
knocks the three knocks, names the three names –
and enters.

He comes to her smiling with bent teeth
and takes her hair in his fingers, muttering
how it reminds him of sun and honey.
He lists his price as a kiss, a sip of blood,
and an hour of her company.
She tells herself that she will do anything
to become thin as a willow switch,
so when the moroii tells her that magic
must be done in the nude,
she says nothing.

Leering, he takes off his boots
and scratches the floor with scaley feet.
Only when he unzips his pants
and a cockerel’s head pops out
does she begin to scream.

Her strident cries split the quiet night
of a village which once belonged to Roumania
and still remembers myths long obscured
by the mapmaker’s art. She runs outside,
the moroii hot on her heels,
cock crowing madly in pursuit.

Suddenly a bull blocks his way,
horns and hide as white as new cream,
and the black beak squawks its dismay.
The bull bellows and charges.
It knocks the moroii to the ground,
gores and gores with razor horns.

The girl fumbles with the gate latch
and misses most of the battle.
She only sees the end, when the white bull
changes to a handsome young man
who with a silver knife slices off
the cockerel’s head.

The moroii turns to dust.
The young man turns to find the girl
staring at him with naked admiration.

He sighs, shakes his head,
and in a heavy accent relates to her
the legend of the kresnik.
Saving her, he explains,
was no more than his duty
and his destiny.
To be sure, it was assigned to Slovenia,
but who can tell these days
what used to be where?
So he hunts them – the
lifedrinkers, the deathbringers –
wherever they may roam.

She goes back to her rented room,
picks up her copy of Vogue,
and throws it into the
quaint, rustic

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