Updated: Jan 26
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!
 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,
Whom 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.
 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.
 The Baron’s wife, the mother who
Geneviève, her child, never knew,
Had suffered poorly from the birth
Of her daughter. And so the worst
Did come to pass; she withered soon
And died that night, in Father’s room.
 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.
 ‘Twas joked
Thereafter by the Baron’s serfs:
“Upset the baron? Pay your worth
In money, bondage, property,
Or grasp his hands and grin at he.”
 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.
 For 22 miserable years
Mari’ was hurt by Jenny’s jeers
And jibes about their father’s love
which ‘Belle could not even rebuff.
 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.
 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.”
 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 at Geneviève,
Began inside with hatred seethe.
 “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.
 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.
 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.”
 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.
 “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?”
 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:
 “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 seen. 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.
 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.
 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.”
 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?
 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.
 I’ll make sure just your head is 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 face. 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!”
 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.
 But I’ll be there to make him mild
And soothe his anger. Then he’ll see
He loved not Geneviève but me!
And as your friends cry on 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.”
 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.