Order of Events
First, he taught us to use the dead as shawls
in the viscous winter escorting his arrival.
Next, he taught us to forget the dead
were dead, our dead, and dead because of a wager
we did not consent him to make with the thin-lipped
savior of his own pantomime. Third, he delivered
on promises that blew off the tops of homes
in places whose names he could not pronounce.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown1
forced to fit a quiet country that has no need
for a crown. Where once was honey unhived
competition. The drones meant for war
prepared for war. We dusted our shoulders
of Shadows’ silent reconnaissance, surveilled
as practice for a slaughter we did not consent to.
The royal parade pride’s malady stomped
its sequence through beat drums of human skin
from which emanated a rhythm impossible
to decipher. I too would shake my ass
to the sound of stars falling night-
wise into a pit of myth-bent nomenclature
if the names sounded like home. Under eroding
circumstances, this kingdom could become home.
Under eroding circumstances my gasp
has become home enough, love not
consented to yet detected from beneath
my mindless right hand pressing its devotion
to ritual over my heart, flag above waving heaven
and blood into the smoke-diffused sky I
quake my way through anthems beneath. Rockets
glaring off my breath forced to evidence I belong.
The crown is crooked. We straighten it
with vote-vapid hands. The crown sits too heavy
for the king to carry on his own. When it falls
“O say can you see,” strikes its inquisition.
My knees, summoned to straighten at the hinges
permission most questionably opens from,
strike the earth with a kiss. Could I
kneel my way to revolution?
Would that goad the king to unzip?
1 King Henry IV, Part Two
Copyright © 2021 by Phillip B. Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.