A Different Mirror

I was raised on tales of princes, kings and dragon’s hordes;
the books they filled engulfed my world with sights
that to this day affect me deeply. I can hear the swords
(both those of plastic from my youth, and others forged of steel)
that came to clash against their foes each night,
caring more for the price worth paying than what they could afford.
King Arthur, the Green Knight, Quixote, seemed alive and real.

I think that each young man envisions serving some great king
whose cause is noble, pure and just, and worth our life itself.
We seek out those champions, imagining them different from ourselves,
yet sensing that the circumstance of birth, and station can
reveal the king to be a pauper, or make knight of common man.

We claim our independence, fiercely, so quick to deny
such foolish fancies, the great need that does not die inside
but with the years grows stronger, and makes us resort to lies
like “‘that dream world exists no more” or “we’ve advanced beyond
the childlike wish for guidance from some other’s regal hand.”

But it still remains, that longing; and the lucky ones may find
that all that separates us from that goal is our own grown-up minds.

I wonder, thinking on the legends woven in my past
exactly when, say, Arthur, knew how his die had been cast
and sloughed away his peasant’s garb, and found a sword at hand;
how long did he lay wondering, at night, dream-tossed and damned
to live a life that was not his, a pretense biding time
before the dreams that filled his head solidified in flesh?

I’ve often looked in mirrors, noting something in my eyes;
a smoke from a far distant fire that waits, unseen, disguised,
at other times, when I bewail the state of my affairs.
I wonder, who is it, exactly, who looks back from there.

The truth behind these tales is plain:
for those who think of themselves as kings
from birth, are not the regents who
live on in legends, past their deaths.

‘Tis only those who say, “not me”
and would deny their fates,
who step beyond their possibilities,
that are remembered, great.

For chivalry gives no great honor
measured out in gold;
It teaches when to let go,
what to grasp, and how to hold.

15 JUN 2004

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