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.