Of Kings: Three? Or two? Or one?

(For Brett, who asked for Epiphany poems beyond Eliot)

Why do you look for poems
About us?

Kings? Oh, you are generous,
Friend; words are elastic,
Yes, but that one will not stretch to

Say we are governors, courtiers,
Retainers, perhaps.
Not Prince Hamlet, but
Attendant lords.

Honoured enough in our own land
(Though careful of those above us)
We found ourselves strangers, outsiders,
Aliens, perhaps
When we reached the place we sought.

There a king (or, at least,
A man on a throne)
Summoned us, instructed us, and
Dismissed us.

No welcome there; we
were wrong—our
Faces, clothes, accents, our
Diets, our customs, our

There is honesty in the streets
‘Ere, Mister! You look
Funny—you sound funny—
You dress funny—Mister,
You smell funny!’

In the halls of the
Palace … courteous
Lies to our faces; behind
Our backs? Careful cuts,
Plausibly deniable;

‘Good chaps, of course … but …
Not the right sort. Not
Clubbable, if you know what I
Mean? Something I can’t
Put my finger on is

If you asked, you could put your finger on
My skin. Discover
That it feels as yours, if
A different shade. But to
Ask would be to

They sighed, no doubt, in
Relief when we left for
The town we were told of.
‘Satisfactory’? Perhaps
For those expecting … less
Than we had once known.

But we had discovered our
Disqualifications. Gentiles
(Persians!). Pagans. Sorcerers
By calling. Uncircumcised.
Unchosen. Uncalled.

Travel will
Teach you such
Truths if you let it.
Like the refugee
Brain surgeon who
Mops your floors, friend,
We left our status behind.

But we knew when to kneel.

Gifts given, we chose
(Aided by an angel)
To confirm their suspicions
And disobey their ‘king’.

‘I told you, unreliable, not
The right sort. Should never have
Trusted. Left with a

‘Send the army to deal,
Quietly of course.’ While we 
Return east, to places,
That know us, places
We no longer

And the family flees west,
To a land strange to them
As theirs was to us.
But all lands are his.

But no land will ever
Welcome him.

1 Comment

  1. Name *Robert Grayson
    Jan 1, 2023

    Comment *Love it. Thank you Steve.

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