Under a Bridge with No Water: Part 1

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

A few years ago I wrote a poem called "Under a Bridge with no Water" (part of which I included in "A Month at the End of the World") that ended up being way too ambitious in scope for what I was prepared to write at the time. Whilst never fully finished, I did manage to write the first couple of parts. Here they are!



Image by Prawny from Pixabay


[1] The tale below, of which is sung,

The story of a woman stung

By treachery and despair, that

Was of her making, when attacked

By family she’d scorned since birth,

Who now are sleeping ‘neath the earth,

Is one not only of distress.

Also of roughish flair and jests

Does too this story have to share.

Of briny seas and deadly traps,

Of daggers stuck into the backs

Of bandits, barons, evil men

And women. So, let me begin

This Comedy or Tragedy:

The story of our Geneviève.


[2] A daughter, her name Geneviève,

Was born a child of Baron Cleve,

His second daughter. First had been

Maribelle named, though seldom seen

She was due to her father’s plan

To keep her kept until a man

Befitting of her radiant face

Would a ring on her finger place.


[3] The Baron’s wife, the mother who

Geneviève and Maribelle knew,

Had suffered poorly from the birth

Of Geneviève. And so the worst

Did come to pass, she withered soon

And died that night, in Father’s room.


[4] The Baron Cleve he howled and wept

For his departed love. And yet,

When he held little Geneviève,

He found no more he wished to grieve.

The new-born girl she had awoken

‘Fore the morning sun had broke.

When Cleve picked up his daughter then,

He saw her face and smiled again.

Those tears he shed, fell from his face,

Were shed no more once she embraced

His hand with tiny hands.


[5] ‘Twas joked

Thereafter by the Baron’s serfs:


“Upset the baron? Pay your worth

In money, bondage, property,

Or grasp his hand and grin at he.”


[6] From thereon hence was Geneviève

The favourite child of Baron Cleve.

He saw in her, her mother’s grace

Her reddish hair and friendly face.

He overlooked his Maribelle

Who, true, had mother’s grace as well.

Yet no more time was spent by Cleve

With Maribelle. Just Geneviève.


[7] For 22 miserable years

Mari’ was hurt by Jenny’s jeers

And jibes about their father’s love

which ‘Belle could not even rebuff.


[8] How Maribelle would glower so

Unfavourably from her tower. Lo!

Returning from a morning’s hunt

Comes Geneviève! Given the brunt

Of credit for the hunters’ catch.

It seems the skinners were no match

For her deft handling of a knife

When in the thicket.


[9] Baron Cleve

Watched his daughter. “If you must leave

To join the king in royal court,

Your many suitors will have brought

all manner of gifts to win your heart.

But pick none fast! For if you start

To throw your love round carelessly,

You’ll live a life of misery

Since love cannot be bought by gifts

Or platitudes. It can’t exist

Unless the bond, through good and ill,

One forges with a lover will

Endure the webs that Fate has spun

And endures after thy will’s done.”


[10] The Baron sighed. The balcony

Of his grand castle did he leave

It was occupied anew

By jealous sister Mari’, who,

When she looked down a Geneviève,

Began inside with hatred seethe.


[11] “Before you came into this world

I was content. But then, you churl,

You took our father’s love and bent

It to your selfish ends. It rends

My very soul to see you pose

With guards as if the Father chose

You as his fairest maiden here

Whom all the men together cheer.


[12] Before you were, I was that girl.

The suitors watched me dance and twirl

And offer kisses, if it pleased.

Mother would so enjoy all these

Games you play not knowing sadness,

Or fear, or hurt, or lover’s madness.


[13] Yet mark this oath, sister of mine:

A day shall come where we will dine

Together with our father dear.

We’ll gorge ourselves on food and cheer!

I’m willing to give you a chance

To start afresh; a second glance.

Then maybe when we’re reconciled

Our father will love every child

Of his the same, of Father Cleve.

I’ll equal you, sweet Geneviève.”


[14] With that the lady Maribelle,

Thinking her motives good and well,

Came down from that high balcony

Into the square for all to see.

She came up to young Geneviève,

Who had nearly taken her leave,

And presented her a box of sweets.


[15] “Dear sister, tiring is this strife

And far too short are both our lives

To stand aloof and look at thee

As if thou hast been mocking me.

Accept this gift! Although it’s small

I hope the gesture says it all.

I love you still and do regret

My love for you proved quite inept.

Let’s stop these petty squabbles now.

Dear sister, why the furrowed brow?”


[16] After listening, sweet Geneviève

Asked if the hunting group could leave

Whilst she talked with her sister here.

Once they had left, she’d make this clear:


[17] “Sweet Maribelle, sister of mine,

How pleasing that you have the time

To come down from the tower there

And indulge in some fresher air.

But oh! Your dress is stained with mud!

‘Tis true, the rain was like a flood.

But see the difference Maribelle,

Between your clothes and mine. As well

You know I’m not a princess, queen,

A lady waiting, never see. I’m not one for the finer things,

Your jewel-encrusted golden rings.

I much prefer the hinterlands,

To follow tracks and use my hands

To fashion traps and hunt rabbits

With one true arrow, where it sits.

To say you and I are alike,

Is saying spoons are like a pike.

We’ve different personalities

With different sensibilities.

The only thing it’s true we share

Is father’s blood. Look over there

He stands above us now and sees

His Maribelle and Geneviève.

He thinks he caught a word or two

About the love he has for you.


[18] But that’s not right! It cannot be!

Our father has more love for me!

What foolish thoughts he entertained

About his love, that’s pre-ordained

To stay with me for evermore

Because it’s me he does adore.

So no, I will not take your treats,

For I’m the first that father greets

When he returns from foreign feasts.


[19] Have me love you? Never.

Why should I let my standards fall

And consider your love best of all?

You hope for me to be your friend?

Then prove it now: go to world’s end

And stay there far from father Cleve

And me, the lovely Geneviève.”


[20] With that, the younger sister went

To find her friends. Mari’ was left

Alone to hear the muttering

Of peasants about what they’d seen.

She fought back many swollen tears.

Had she not made her heart quite clear?

He she not tried to reconcile

Their differences? And all the while

And unbeknownst to Maribelle

Her sister wished that she had fell

From ramparts high onto the ground

Where food she’d make for hungry hounds.


What was my crime, if only to

Be loved by father, not as you

Young Geneviève, but lovèd still?


[21] From mound, her hate became a hill.


“I tried to reach across the aisle,

And think us friends, a little while.

But now I make this final vow

To you, young Geneviève, you cow:

From now I am your enemy.

No more shall I attempt to free

Myself from prejudice. You’ll see

Your life be filled with misery

From which you’ll never hope to flee.

I’ll show you what I, Maribelle,

Can do to those who squander well

An outstretched hand on common ground.


[22] I’ll make sure that you’re slowly found.

I’ll make sure that you end up dead,

And nothing less. That pretty head

Will father no more recognise.

He’ll clasp his mouth and shield his eyes

And barely see his Geneviève

In that corpse. And father Cleve,

That man whom you profess to love

You more than I, betrays his bluff

And comes to me for sympathy.

He’ll say he sees mother in me!


He’ll say: “Mari’, what did you see?”

I’ll answer: “Father dear, it’s me

Who saw the killers. By that door

Are all the killers that I saw!”


[23] And down beside the open gate

Your hunting friends will all await.

Our father then will seize them all,

Your friends, those at your beck and call.

He’ll grant them a most painful death.

He’ll torture them until they’re left

Screaming at him to please relent!

Sweet Geneviève they never sent

To sit beside the Father’s seat!

The torturers start with their feet,

And then those hands, and legs, and eyes,

That Baron Cleve will so despise.

Their ears he’ll keep until the last,

‘till every hope has come to pass.

And then, he’ll hoist them up on stakes

To show the world what grief can make

A father do for a lost child.


[24] But I’ll be there to make him mild

And soothe his anger. Then he’ll see

He loved not Geneviève but me!

And whilst your friends cry in the breeze

I’ll chuck your corpse into the trees

And every day will it decay.

Above your bones will children play.

And thrice I’ll curse our mother Cleve

For giving birth to Geneviève.”


[25] From that day on did Maribelle

Become most vile, a hollow shell

Her heart became and she cared not

For petty intrigue at the court

Or gossip of the castle maids.

She turned her minds to ways to aid

Her sororicide. Her plots

Began to manifest in thoughts.

All manner of creative ways

She thought to murder her each day.

She’d need a plan to do it right,

Before she’d have the chance to strike.