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(After Keats)

Why do you quake

and grind your teeth,

good sir – spring’s come

and greened the heath

gorse flowers bloom

bright warblers call

a thrush flutes clear

notes over all

yet shivering

and pale as if

in winter’s grip

your limbs seem stiff

you stare like one

who cannot see

and stumble on

stones clumsily.

This ague’s not

the season’s brew –

pray tell, what may

be plaguing you?

*    *    *

I dreamed last night

a fearful scene:

cold seas rose up

and boiled with steam

and in their midst

a figure stood

with fiery hair

legs caked with mud

both fat and tall

he stalked the land

demanding fealty

out of hand

and bellowed that

he was the One

at volumes great

enough to stun --

had come to bring

a new age in

where greed runs free

and hate’s no sin

and lesser men

inhale the breeze

of grievance while

opponents freeze.

About him, forms

quite tiny bowed

and chorused their

small praise-songs loud

discarding oaths

and pledges past

for fear or gain

they thought would last.

They trampled out

the vineyards on

that place where laws

are stored -- foregone

restraint or shame,

displaced by

insults at all costs.

So he with yawps

glared round for those

who might dissent

as counterweights

and palmed bright coins

behind his back

and christened lies

as holy fact.

And when I dared

to differ -- came attack:

he seized me with

one paw (a dainty snack)

and stuffed me in

then swole me down

and laughed to feel

me wriggling whole.

Now ask you why

I walk in night,

breathe heavy when

May air blows light?

I’ve seen the shadow

End of Days, where

harmony divides

brute growls collide

and courtiers

stand by slyly


Version first published in What Rough Beast, July 30, 2019

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