THE MAYOR'S TALE

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



A MODERN ADAPTATION OF THE SQUIRE'S TALE FROM CHAUCER'S CANTERBURY TALES

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THE MAYOR'S PROLOGUE

"Madame Mayor, it's now your turn to tell
A tale," the bartender said. "You must know well
The wily ways of politics and power.
There's plenty there to while away an hour,
Though I would rather that you take less time
Since soon enough the gambling's end will chime."

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"I'll speak of love and marriage," the mayor said,
"But from a woman's point of view. You've led
Us to believe that women are to blame
For putting out too soon love's lambent flame.
But men are far more faithless, there's no doubt,
As in this next sad tale you'll find out!"

THE MAYOR'S TALE

Candace was still virgin at eighteen,
Innocent by choice, and not too keen
On being just a notch on some boy's pride,
Not loved sufficiently to be a bride.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



Although she burned with natural desire,
She knew how to mitigate that fire
By letting it burn awhile, for time would tell
How much a suitor loved her, and how well.

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She had learned this lesson from a bird,
And lest you think this statement sounds absurd,
Recall with what good sense a parrot speaks,
While crows make tools of wires with their beaks.

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Aesop's crow put stones into a cup
To bring the level of the water up
To where he could put down his beak and drink.
Now who says that an animal can't think?
As recently was proven, when a crow
Did this in a lab, as all well know.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



Birds marry, cheat, divorce, and mourn their dead
Just as we do, as is often said,
And feel the pangs of passion and desire,
The joys of parenthood, the inner fire
That welds two into one, so that we see
Never one, but two, where e'er they be.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



And they can speak, albeit in songs and cries,
Which translate into truths and also lies --
Yes, birds lie as we do, for the same
Reasons, both utility and shame.
But enough of this -- all know it all too well!
Back to Candace -- I have a tale to tell!

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



One day as she was walking through a park,
A place one wouldn't frequent after dark,
With thickets that could hide all sorts of crimes,
She heard deep moans, so pitiful at times
That she was moved to search for who might be
Crying out in pain so piteously.

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She searched in places dangerous to go,
Driven by anxiety to know
Whether she might alleviate the pain
That would such grievous wailing sustain.

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In a little while she found a hawk
In such distress that she could barely talk,
A female falcon bleeding from her breast,
Perched on a branch far from any nest.
As she cried she plucked hard at her heart
As though she meant to tear her breast apart.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"Dear falcon,? Candace said. "Please, what might be
The sorrow that you suffer in that tree?
Pray come down and perch upon my shoulder,
And tell me of your pain. Though you are older,
Perhaps you will find comfort just in sharing
Your story with a listener who is caring."

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"Oh, what's the good of counting down this sorrow?"
The bird replied. "I won't be here tomorrow
With any luck. My heart cannot long bear
This burden! But my tale I would share
In hope that you might well avoid my fate,
If for saving you it's not too late.

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"You look so kind and innocent, I must
Warn you of what men you shouldn't trust.
Ah! If only someone had warned me!
But to the tale, as you shall shortly see.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"I was young once, and innocent as you,
All hot with desire, but very mindful, too,
Of all the snares that men put in our way
To have their fun, then leave before we lay
Our eggs. But we can't hatch them on our own,
For we must eat, and they will die alone.

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"It takes two to raise our little chicks,
And long, hard work, so schemers use their tricks
To make us think they love us, all the while
Lying through their beaks! Oh, how they smile
And flatter us! To make us think we were
The very pitch of grace! Such words would stir
A stone to longing! And they seem so true,
Coming from a male point of view,
A mirror in which we ourselves can see
Precisely as we always dreamed we'd be!

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"I must admit, I lusted after those
Who courted me with poetry, not prose,
Who trembled with desire for my love
And played so well the music that would move
My heart, while I danced tipsy to their tune,
Drowning in the liquor of their swoon!

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"Of course in time I fell in love with one
Who seemed so handsome, strong, and full of fun,
So much in love with me, so quick and sure,
He seemed he could be nothing less than pure.

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"I gave myself to him, and thought no boy
Again could bring me to such perfect joy.
And so we were a pair, I thought for life,
And went to build our nest as man and wife.

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"But just as he was so in love with me,
My lover was enamored serially,
Truly, truly passionate about
Each present love in turn, wholly without
The need for artifice, though well he knew
He would move on as soon as he was through.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"We had not hatched our first ill-fated brood
When he turned nasty, in an ugly mood,
Irritable with having to supply
Our chicks with food, asking himself why
He'd gotten so entangled in my snare,
As though I were the one who put him there!
Oh, God! It was so painful just to hear him
That soon I couldn't suffer being near him!

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"But we took turns at guarding well our nest
While the other hunted without rest.
It's hard, hard work to raise a hungry brood,
To supply ourselves and them with food,
While those romantic males, good for love,
Poor husbands and providers often prove,
For all they would pursue is their own pleasure,
And their own happiness is all they treasure,
Loving till the ecstasy is done,
Then looking, looking for another one.

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"As my far-roving husband did, and when
He found another willing, virgin hen,
He disappeared, leaving me alone
With eight young chicks to manage on my own!

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"Ah, my dear one! Listen to my tale,
And learn to recognize those who will fail
To do what's right once love becomes for life,
And what was once a wench becomes a wife.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"For those who will excite the hottest lust
Are those who vanish quickly when they must
Do their share of drudgery, while they
Who might not women's hearts so quickly sway,
Are likely to make husbands good and true,
Their bonds of glory ever to renew!

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"But you cannot imagine my despair
Since you are not a bird. Just see me there
Waiting by my nest for his return,
Waiting, waiting, waiting, just to learn
From a passing friend what he had done,
Nesting somewhere with another one!

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"What was I to do? My chicks cried out
With hunger! And as for now I was without
A mate to watch the nest as I found food,
I had to leave my chicks for their own good,
Circling back and forth so I could see
Whether they were safe. But presently
I spied a tasty squirrel on the ground
And dove for him. I could not look around,
But took him in my talons in the air
And turned to see my chicks no longer there!

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"Ah!" I screamed. "Oh, no! Please no!" and dropped
The squirrel to the ground. Time just stopped,
As though the clock were shattered at that hour,
And so would read forever. I flew to scour
The area around my nest and found
Some tell-tale feathers scattered on the ground,
Evidence of massacre, but none
Of my poor babes survived -- not even one!

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"Then how the hatred filled me like a fire,
And I flew out to find that wretched liar
Who talked of love undying for his pleasure,
While all he cared about was joy and leisure!

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"Days I flew until I found him near
Another female hawk, his latest dear,
The two about to breed another brood
For him to abandon! I could not help intrude!

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"'Stop!' I cried, 'or it will be too late
To save your chicks from my poor chicks' sad fate!
This cad abandoned me, as I am sure
He's done to many an innocent and pure
Virgin, who believes his loving lies,
And gives herself to still his plaintive cries.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"'He loves himself alone, and females are
But mirrors to his solitary star,
Proof of prowess, proof that he exists,
Something he's not sure of without lists
Of conquests, since his soul is so alone.
Save yourself! His heart is made of stone!'

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"Off the female flew, and so he turned,
Oblivious to the hatred he had earned.
'Sorry!' he said. 'I see your jealousy
Has turned your vicious temper against me.
What have I done? Would you have me stay
With you when love is gone? Why, I pray?
You want me to pretend my love for you,
To murmur lovely words that aren't true?

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"'I pledge myself to an authentic life,
A value even higher than a wife,
And would for both our sakes' be honest, so
What we see will be what we will know.
You should be grateful for my honesty,
So you might also live authentically.'

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"'Our chicks are dead!' I cried. 'So much for your
Excuses! Now between us there is war!'
And so we fought until I broke his neck,
And he fell bleeding from the skies, a wreck
That did not touch my sorrow, not at all,
For I felt nothing as I saw him fall.
My grief so swallowed up my victory
That vengeance held no bit of joy for me."

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



The bird flew back upon her branch and cried
As though all torn to pieces deep inside.
"Please go!" she said to Candace. "Leave me now!
But if you care for me, remember how
I suffered, and avoid my tragic fate!

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



"And to your fellow females please relate
This tale of perfidy and fatal woe,
That they might in time this harsh truth know:
That men whom women lust for love them not.
So do not listen to romantic rot
But look for men who mean the things they say,
And who, though they seem dull, at least will stay.
Now go, and do not seek me out tomorrow!
Only death will mitigate my sorrow."

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon



Candace blew the bird a kiss and turned
To leave, taking to heart what she had learned,
Remaining virgin till she was mature
Enough to judge the lure within allure,
And when she married virgin, married well.
That is all. I have no more to tell.

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