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 Us. 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 Assumptions. 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; Perspicuous; Deadly. ‘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 Wrong…’ 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 Admit. 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. Unwanted. 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 Mess.’ ‘Send the army to deal, Quietly of course.’ While we Return east, to places, That know us, places We no longer Belong. 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...

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