They are here. Again. Night rises in my gut. Skies capsize.
Henchmen. Overlords. Allies. High priests. Demigods. Perhaps
Even kings. Here. A constellation of despots and lies.
Do not speak to us, Masters. Do not blaze Faith Honour Duty
Allegiance to God and Country in hearth and head until we
Yield: pledge future, selves and reason. Do not hail prophets, holy
Spirits, the saints. Do not invoke heaven and hell. Do not
Browbeat, do not cajole. Do not feign pity, nor kinship, nor
Entice with promises of unseen treasures — justice, safety
Freedom. You would arrive, we knew, with the threat of gifts — and more.
Only answer, then leave: where is the battle this time, on whose
Rightful land? And how many men will you summon from our door,
Enlist as living shield for heroes? Spare him. Spare us. Spare us
Three days. And he is yours. Yours, for we never had a choice.
Hunger or royal dungeons are yet more spears to tear out
Entrails — war but a swifter end. Now leave, lest rage find voice,
Blight you, finally hurl: may you never taste faith or grief,
Amity, awe; you waging war and peace to metre
Time on earth, may your eyes never enjoy your own fief.
Three days, then, to steep each nook of home and heart with his
Lilt, his laugh. Three days to touch a gaze in relief,
Etch smile and sudden frown in folios of the mind.
Poet's Note: Excerpted from the prologue of Until the Lions, a reworking of the Mahabharata in verse.