All the Love You’ve Got

              And now, having dismissed everyone as he 
wishes he could dismiss his own dreams that make each 
night restless—that same unswayable knowledge, and
the belief in it, that he is 
                                             king here, which means
being a stranger, at least outwardly, to even the least 
trace of doubt—after all of this, the king has stepped 
from the royal tent, is walking toward the sound 
of water, where the river must be. There’s the river, 
rivering south, 
                           as rivers tend to. Beside the river, 
two men are fucking. Young men. Almost too young 
to even know about fucking, thinks the king, who can’t 
help noticing how the men bring a somehow grace
to the business between them—a grace that some might 
confuse with love. But the king 
                                                         rarely makes mistakes, 
which is to say, he knows mercy when he sees it. What 
does mercy have to do with fucking? What does love
have to do with grace? What are dreams but the only
rivers memory knows how to make? There’s a kind of
            to how the men routinely but unpredictably trade 
places entering and withdrawing from each other. It’s as if 
they’re singing a song that might go “I’m the king, no you’re 
the king and I’m the river, no you’re the river.” On and on,
like that. Leave them; they do 
                                                        no harm. The king making 
his slow, insomnia-ed way back. The night dark but not dark 
entirely: moonless, yes, but through the pines enough stars 
still visible. Whoever goes there,
                                                           let me pass. Beneath 
the brocaded cloak, each bead stitched to it by hand, 
beneath the cloak of some more breathable, lighter fabric 
beneath that, the king’s cock rests like tenderness itself 
against the king’s left thigh. How soft the stars look.

From Star Map with Action Figures. Copyright © 2019 by Carl Phillips. Used with the permission of the poet.