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Title: Courtyard. Image by Josue Armando Serrano via Flickr.

There’s always an old man in every castle.

Sometimes, when he’s not the king’s physician,

he goes about collecting the king’s dues.

_

I belong under the king’s reign, in the storyteller’s house,

outside the great walls among those appealing for lesser taxes,

the ones not needed in the king’s armed service.

_

The king’s old man is making a round today;

and he stands at the door, asking for the bits—

thirty pieces of silver from Judas’ field—that make here a household.

_

There’s a horde of weariness on the street: the evicted folk,

grappling with uncertainty, like people escaping a battle through

an underground channel, imagining the fighting above them.

_

A child sitting on the mother’s thighs looks up to her:

Will it fester, his bile? Mother will it fester?

_

O child! I’d rather smother you 

or my heart of furs and feathers.

_

People speak of a slow death, sores and the thick smell of an unwashed body.

But the king reigns over us, mighty, and after many years

climbs onto his bed and sleeps.

_

They speak in the morning, of a man who upset the life of many

and escaped into the arms of death; not with his physician by his side,

but with the cactus tree he groomed through his reign.

 

 

 

About the Author:

Ebenezer Agu is a poet and nonfiction writer. He grew up in the market city of Onitsha, Nigeria.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he is a judge for The Gerald Kraak Prize and was a judge for The Morland Writing Scholarship in 2019. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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