Kārlis Vērdiņ
The Tale of the Golden Virgin
Mother brought my thirteen brothers and I behind the circus tent and sat us down. Inside we heard shrieks, growls, and cries, and our mother told us:

“In there, dogs are reading books like erudite gentlemen, bats are juggling quail eggs and do you hear those cries? – the lion, king of all animals, is teaching a lesson to those children who have gone to bed with dirty feet.”

The tent opened up and a slender virgin in a golden dress ran out into the field, collapsed on a bench, coughed, heaved a deep sigh, and quickly scampered into the colorful trailer on wheels.

The brothers began to whistle out of excitement, but their mother hushed them: “listen, you fools! Each of you, and even you, Spodris, will one day experience life’s holiest moment, when a woman lets you into her garden!

So don’t delay too much, but don’t be foolish, and remember what your mother taught you: don’t talk dirty, don’t point, don’t leave your boots lying about!”

It began to grow dark, and we had to go home. After counting her children, mother and the brothers headed down the path, but I deliberately stayed behind and stole into the colorful trailer.

After knocking, I went inside and said: “honorable golden virgin, Spodris is my name and I would like it very much if you let me into your garden!”

The virgin’s bed was like a haystack, decorated with streamers and glitter. She lifted her snow-white hand:

“If you promise not to talk dirty, not to point, and not to leave your boots lying about, you may come into my garden! Many hares and camels have grazed there, though there are enough juicy grasses left for you as well!”

I quickly pulled off my boots, left the world behind, and dove into the golden virgin’s haystack, so that she could lead me into her garden. Suddenly I heard a ghastly roar and a huge lion leapt out from under the china cabinet, with eyes as big as a platter of vegetables, fiercely roaring:

“You stinking fool, going to the virgin’s garden with dirty feet! I will bite off your head for mocking my virgin!"

Shaking with fear, I watched as the fiery mane approached. Who knows what would have happened if my mother hadn’t appeared in the doorway of the trailer with a switch in her hand. She chased the lion back under the china cabinet, scolded the virgin, grabbed me by the hand and dragged me home, covered with tears.

Later, I became a man. I was led into many gardens and learned to listen to wise words. Even today, while cleaning lion cages, I hear the jingle of golden earrings, shrieks, growls and cries coming from inside the circus tent.

Translated by Rihards Kalniņ

Kārlis Vērdiņ
fot. Marina Schukina

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