On the narrow street,
Dancers weave an elegant procession
Of movement, shown in gentle browns and blues.
Behind them, four litter bearers carry one of the royal women
Towards the lake far in the distance.
Reeds wave in the breeze, carrying the perfume of green and growing things
To her nose.
She would stop, but not today.
The festival requires her attendance, and she can't be late.
The people expect to see her,
So she must put her happiness aside to please the peasants.
Life is so hard.
From her place along the side of the narrow road,
The washer girl watches the parade pass before her.
The dancers are so graceful, she's mesmerized by their movements,
Like one of the snakes the charmers show
On market days.
Then comes the litter,
Carried on the shoulders of four strong men.
Sweat beads on their bear chests and on their legs.
Beside her, Mother grins, and she knows why.
Hot days mean more business, and that's good.
Maybe they'll make enough to buy some food today, she hopes.
The litter's drawn curtains hide the royal person safe inside.
It has to be the princess, the girl thinks.
The bearers wear the royal livery on their loincloths,
The King would ride a horse, and the Queen's litter requires six men.
Princesses are so lucky, the girl thinks,
They never have to hear their stomachs' growl,
Or hurt their hangs wringing out the clothes on the banks of the river.
Suddenly, her smile vanishes.
Life isn't fair.
At the lake shore, the High Priest waits.
He frowns. The Princess still has not appeared
And the crowds grow restless with each passing moment.
He looks over at the King and sees the frown.
At least he's not the only one annoyed by her tardiness.
Silly girl, he thinks as he watches the crowd shifting behind the soldiers' line.
It wouldn't take much to set the peasants off,
With the weak harvest and the plague last year.
The crowds are dry tinder, and the royals will be the spark
If they're not careful.
And if that happens, there's not much he could do from the temple.
A man's faith in the gods vanishes quickly
When his belly knots from hunger while the royal table bows
Beneath the weight of lavish feasts.
The soldier wipes the sweat that trickles down towards his eyes.
The day's too hot for foolishness like this.
Look at the priest,
Cool as the fan-bearers wave the heat away from him.
His belly bulging slightly in his robes.
Must be nice to never hear the growl of your own gut.
Too bad his parents didn't give him to the Temple.
Soldiers might starve, but the priests never do.
And all they have to do is squawk and sing,
Do a little dance and wave a magic stick
As the sacrifice burns on the altar.
They say the smoke from the sacrifices pleases the gods,
But the soldier doesn't believe them.
Gods have everything,
They live forever,
So why would they care about some stupid smoke?
The Princess wrinkles her nose at the smell of burning meat,
The washer-girl's mouth waters and the soldier's belly rumbles,
While the priest can't wait to return to the temple and a glass of melon water.