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.

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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,

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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.