Three Kings

Upon blood-red thread
the children count and read
the loom above knobbly knees
the destiny of future kings —
it lay await in threes.

Like hunted hares entranced
they did in unison intone
the prophecy of triple princes
and the twice usurped
Great Throne.

First a lecher, gambler
a mincing useless fop:
the king of tawny, silken dress
on velvet cushions atop

From which he fell easily
replaced by Number Two:
a severe monarch bent on terror
who whittled his enemies to few

Until a pox stole his breath
and a boy ascended that mighty, vacant chair
he of little wit and dangerous, foolish dare.

A fall from grace –
He died for an apple
on an old gnarled tree
and that was to be the end
of the Kingdom
and of King Number Three.

Hostage

He watches with false eyes the lay of the snow
The whiteness a great blankness
Although his brothers tell him the words for it:
The powder that is freshly fallen
The permafrost that refuses to crunch underfoot
The colors of blue like lampshades thrown
Each tint uttered with the same reverence
Shown for a beautiful woman
It is not until much later that he learns he was born
In a palace of eternal summer
And snatched away during the heat of battle
A babe pushed into a cuckoo’s feathers