A HISTORY LESSON
Sweaty after a bout the young prince towels his body,
sprawls against the wall of a tennis court. His body seems
his own. He is seventeen, loves exercise,
apples, and has just discovered order
in the frets of a guitar and the disorder
his spirit leans towards where hair sweeps upward
and a tender neck’s laid bare. All this
his body is the site of negotiations. Old men in furs
have laid it out between them, a treaty
is tied to the royal member as, by proxy, it is annexed, with no compliance
on his part (it is, so far as he knows, off
in a goosegirl’s placket) to the crib of a ten months’ orphan, the Staatsholder
of nine dependencies.
work in the prince’s groin, sleep off the day’s work in its shade.
They will speak the same patois when they go back
to dealing with horizons, but their heads
have passed under harsher laws. In a trench twelve pikemen
curse white, blow on a fist as night creeps over
the edge of a boy’s body much like theirs and also forfeit.
These lives go other ways
than the documents intended. The young prince
will swell with evil fluids not drained off, his infanta
be occupied by three foreign husbands; she will never know his tongue.
One of that band of pikemen, every hair
on his head ablaze with firelight, every louse in his shirt assured of
its sweat, will get his wish. He will climb on out
of the blood of battle, eat, in a fiery sunset,
a late crust among shadows
that peck round a harvest blade, and whistling an old song, track
to its source among ferns the stream
that mutters in his head and never once says ‘history’.
But that is another story. Passed from mouth
to mouth and not set down, it covers the facts, has a beginning and has survived
its middle. Why shouldn’t it end well?