was scattered rubbish – plastic bags
held down with nails, drill-bits, dregs
of soupy solvents, little mounds
of gravel. I saw a tilted pot,
or drum, engaged in churning thought
and staring at the sky. Before
it — packaged bundles of cement.
A little girl stood at the shore.
An anxious yellow kite went wild
upon its short-reined leash, hell-bent
to flee from this restraining child,
who waved (a faithful marionette) her
forelimbs from a red-puffed sweater.
A shout was heard. She turned her head.
She saw me, snatched her kite – and fled.
Three other children stood upon
a rock to watch me from afar.
(The kite-girl joined them). How bizarre
it was. This gang of human spawn
adapted to my island, observing
me – as if I was the stranger! Unnerving,
as well, to see their guardians around,
all still and staring, activities paused,
a hack-saw suspended, a bundle set down.
The generator now stopped (its din,
while I was convalescing, had caused
me such puzzlement – a ringing ear? The tin-
tinnabulation from my tumble?
A howling wind? A freighter’s rumble?)
Nearby, a very large camera hovered.
Its holder exclaimed: ‘Great King! You’ve recovered!’
Sayeed ignored this fellow. ‘The scrap’s
all gone,’ Sayeed was saying. ‘Dear Tug
of War, all used. A hole was dug – ’
‘O King!’ Snap-click.
‘Remember that map
I showed you? Where once the chamber pot did
sit — remember? – we’ve now allotted
this spot for squatting. Downwind, you see.
Well most the time. Watch out. Please mind
your step, my Lord.’
two Aussie sheep-dogs, a shivering kitty,
and five bright yellow finches consigned
to a small white cage (Oh! The pity
I felt for those divinely pretty singers),
there were – count them, memory’s fingers –
some thirty colonists sharing my isle.
‘Here, your Greatness. We’ll sit a while.’
I want to tell you, dear,
the details: How bad that rock had whacked me.
The damage done. How long, exactly,
I’d lain insensible. But it’s not clear.
Not now, not then. Some hours? Days?
Or longer? You ask – did I not raise
these questions with Sayeed? Indeed
I did. And he’d reply:
or two at most, my Lordship. No need
to worry. Had it been worse, would you
be here? Our brain – and everything in it –
is all we ever own. I knew
at once your assets were intact.
I’ve been concussed myself. In fact,
in my mouth mother once did pour
that liquid treatment you adore.’
Which made me worry: How could I tell
what I’d ingested? Sayeed was right
about that syrup, spooned each night
to me – a julep of amarelle,
pistachio, served warm and spiked
with something, no doubt – and how I liked
to let it linger in my throat.
In truth, I found no peace without it.
In truth, it caused my mind to float
away on Time’s eternal seas.
I often asked Sayeed about it.
‘Ah yes,’ he’d say. ‘Immeasurable ease.
Immeasurable bliss! No sweeter drink
exists, my friend.’ He’d give a wink.
‘A Turkman saying: O Pleasure! You tease!
With every tingle, you jingle your keys!’
So maybe my concussion was mild.
But I was like a man conscripted,
impressed, Shanghaied, as coma’s ship did
save me and slave me together. Exiled
from life, I was. And the more circuitous
my return, the less it felt fortuitous.
‘The dwarf,’ Sayeed would say, ‘he told
me all. That’s right. About your wife,
your troubled marriage, and how you sold
your soul for Tug, to sail to this spot,
to launch a new venture – and, too, a new life.’
‘A Republic – of one.’
He bowed. ‘Your Grace. Whatever we build,
the story that dwarf recounted filled
my heart with more devotion. I knew
I’d found a kindred spirit – you.’
‘And I,’ he continued, ‘did all I could
to reason with that little twerp,
when you let passion’s voice usurp
the proceedings – as all great leaders should.
Oh what a sight! That swinging chain!
You broke his arm – ’
‘He broke my brain.’
‘You broke his arm and cracked your head.
Your brain – unharmed, thank God. The bastard!
I said I’d find a way to curse him. He said
he’d sue us both. I said, or started
to say, I’ll see you in court, but mastered
my wrath. A snake is better outsmarted
than tangled with, you must agree.
A deal was made. This work you see
around us – it comes from me, undaunted,
determining what you most wanted.’
‘I wanted to be alone!’
in charge, in authority, control.
Alone in self-assertion, sole
proprietorship – and look, you own
all that and more. The thing you sought –
you seek – is everything you’ve got.
The peak, the highest point, has seat
enough for one, and only God’s
more lonely than a King. I repeat:
You are alone, my Lord. These peasants
you see – and me – are but façades
compared to your more massive presence.
Why, we’re far less company than these
black snails, these shy anemones,
who rule themselves, recoil, withdraw.
While us? We’re subjects to your law.’
‘Great King!’ Snap click.
‘Do snails take pictures?’
‘And what if they did? You’d tell
the snails to stop? What else? Expel
all pests? Flee-bomb your country? Tic-cure
the trees? Fly-proof all the parks?
Pluck stingers from bees? Teeth from sharks?
Sayeed stood up, addressed
the gathered gawkers – twenty-one
‘His Lordship requests
we operate in silent mode – ’
‘Who cares of sound!’ I said.
‘ — and…done!
You see? The fate you steer is rowed
by our paddles. Just read your Thomas Hobbes:
We serve our King, as blood that throbs
in veins, as nerves, as limbs – while you,
Lord Brain, command us what to do.’
More Tuesday Poems at Tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com.