kris t kahn
THE THINGS WE DO FOR KINGS MUST END SOMETIME
master of the dawn, i hold
two steaming tea cups toward the sky.
i am so used to putting the water on
to boil still naked, walking through the house
as either uninvited wraith or being which belongs.
Louis XIV is in the next room, still tangled
in blankets: small pieces of skin stick out,
an arm here, a fillet of thigh there—
What is for breakfast? he asks before he's even tasted the poison.
Morning. i hand the cup without saucer; his hands
are sticks, bones which grasp round the circumference as though
frightened it might drop to the tile at any moment.
as King he must not admit to such things. no, never.
the Sun King draws his own draperies
and we watch the people stir below, or chance
glimpses of those remaining behind
on similar balconies with their own cups of tea,
exuding auras of loudmouthed, come-and-go sociability.
i was hired as lover not apothecary.
i'm not sure which of these hocus-pocus remedies
would work, make you vibrant again so
you might sit in the drawing room 'til dusk
underlining passages from Milton to be read aloud
at table. i've stopped my ears with cotton
and feign jester instead, offering
wormwood to be Socratic, juggling
balls, balls, balls for your pleasure—
Your Majesty! how wonderful to pry open your eyes
and find you still alive, your glassy orbs searching my own.
how wonderful to greet the sun together,
hand upon hand, the sill a bony sort of balustrade
from which we can choose to descend. or not.
what voyeurs are we. the steam from the cup dims
the sun slightly but still
it is dawn / it is here and
this dawn i've spent without sleeping a wink and am
without regret. i've taken the dog-eared copy
of Milton and thrown it
obligingly into the incinerator, thinking
we might draw our own conclusions
from such a sight since Milton himself (toward
the end) had none.
later, after you've retired without Milton,
albeit slightly grievous at not having found him,
i walk the edge of the grounds alone and
capture in puddles stoic little rainbows.
i stuff these into my pockets, my own secret.
i need to keep something for my own, don't i?
and you, almost comatose, sucking me dry...
head propped up on a gilt-edged pillowcase,
visage grey, looking postmortem.
a rose. a fucking rose for my time, is that all?
what's this? No, no we are not calling Wordsworth,
i tell the others. i close the drapes, allowing no light through.
Milton had him in a frenzy as it was, had him
thinking he'd die at any moment. Wordsworth would have
had him picking daisies and smelling the crabgrass.
we couldn't have either one.
i quit the room and do not look back, Lot's other wife.
outside there are rainbows. they are the cure, i'm sure,
the cure i've been denying him all along,
the Sun King waiting in the richest darkness
for that cracked moment of twilight to come, with scythes.
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