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A Secret Collection of Poems

Updated on April 13, 2010

The Scribes received a letter from far away. It brought into these cold dwellings, these monastically darkened quarters, a ray of light rarely seen. The Queen of France, being neither needy nor wanting, extended to us her hand of comradeship if only we would examine her secret collection of poems.

“We salute you!” wrote Father Rimboux in the antiquated, backward manner that is our language. “Send us your words of wisdom in their polished form, and one of our Scribes shall endeavor to make them even better.”

This favorable, if surprising gesture brought into these cold dwellings, these monastically darkened quarters, a ray of light rarely seen. So we rejoiced over bowls of hot soup at 4:30 in the morning.

The Queen had divulged that she was afraid of fatal repercussions in case her husband discovered she had been working on a collection of poems. Her revelation of her husband’s cruelty and shortcomings made us almost bow our heads with embarrassment. Ah, how delightfully open she was! See, we are the inward ones, only when writing fiction in the candlelight after dinner can we feel truly free and liberated. So strongly did we feel about her fears, dreams and aspirations that they were included in our evening prayers.

Winter was drawing to a close at this point, we heard flakes dropping down from the roof, icicles dripping as they gasped while fighting a loosing battle against the oncoming spring. With hands already weary from scribbling longhand all day, we went to work on her poems. See, this is how we Scribes operate: When in human contact with a stranger, our minds tend to fluctuate as we approach the target with little more clairvoyance than the skunks that run across our grounds. But when on assignment, our hands are steady and we rarely fail.

Now that Spring has finally come, we have received yet another letter, which was hand-delivered to us by a horseman, an overnight courier who was too exhausted to even speak his name. Beloux, our doorman who stands tall at 6 foot 3 inches and weighs an astounding 250 pounds, nearly wrestled the horseman to the ground. The horseman, still unable to speak, pointed with his trembling hand at the blood-red seal on the envelope.

Beloux examined it closely under the candlelight, then murmured “hmmm,” which meant that the horseman might live to experience the dawn. He rang the bell, and soon enough Jacob, a slender junior pupil with curly black hair and a subdued manner, appeared to bring the envelope to Father Rimboux.

“The Queen has been arrested by her husband,” Father Rimboux conveyed to us at breakfast, which predictably consists of the very same meal of pudding that has always been on offer, at least since 1239. “She is instructing us to keep the poems here forever more, lest they be confiscated and burned to ashes before they ever reach her. May we all bow our heads in shame!”

And so we did, everyone except Father Rimboux, ever the unpredictable one. While we were bowing and silently praying for mercy and enlightenment, he stepped over to the window facing the western lands. Looking out, he stood in silence for a moment, and then - I swear this is true! - when he turned around there were tears in his eyes.


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