Feigning a Fine Fettle

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Alexander and Diogenes – Caspar de Crayer, ca. 1650

Humiliation and then bodily destruction:

The fire burning the bones, igniting

The marrow and crackling merrily,

Smacking its lips, perhaps to the savor

Of the melting flesh, or perhaps thinking

Of the lions enjoying their own flesh

Or the carrion birds and the scavenger


Dogs hunting for a foot poking from

Scant covering of dirt, or a hand

Grasping for the warmth of the sun

That has already descended past the

Hills around the city, sleeping as

Deep as the sorrow of the widow

And orphan, quietly huddled under


Regal shadows of distant depravement

In the scented garden of the desert,

Or the jewel in the crown on the

Head of the throne, lapis

Lazuli tiles beflecking concentric

Corridors leading to chamber halls

Of baths and mirrors, oils and


Infinite regress to one to one

To no one moved, but caused by

Nothing or to nothing, outside

Measures of time and movement,

The same anyway since time’s

Only a sort of movement in itself,

The record of movement and energy


Transferring from the shamed corpse

Under the thin cloak of earth, those dogs

Outside the walls that skirt the city,

A shield from winds that would drudge

Sand in long streams and currents of

Loosened soils and stolid cynicism,

A revoked life with staff, double


Folded cloak and wallet slung

Shoulder to back, telling the

Conqueror that all you’d like is

For him to get out of your light, that

All you ever wanted is now and now

Is when you want it. But the revoked

Has no conqueror talking to him


Only the nails and the fire and the teeth

That drive the spirit from his lungs in

One great last exhalation, like the last

inhalation before the plunge into water

Or the last exaltation before the trumpets

Sound and the thunder rocks foundations

From under kings and beggars, setting


To dash the temples and markets and

Bathhouses and aqueducts, and the whore

Houses the son before the coming night,

Before the coming dawn, before the

Noon day sun may bake the hide off

The framework of his shelter and before

The sand may come in and cover him


Like a blanket to stave off the cold,

The moon that frosts the body with blue

Dark bruises and bloated protuberances

Swelling in the hours between dusk

And night, a black mass celebrated for

The sake of reminding each one that

No one cared to see what happened here


And there was no powerful friend to come

Pull him from the gore crows and dogs

To give rites and wrap in clean linens

The shamed remnants of a peasant signed

Off to death between the Governor’s bites

Of lunch and quaffs of drink: initial here

And here, initial here, and thank you, sir.






Give it to me straight.

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