Oh, My King!
by Belinda Roddie
He thrives on bone
stripped of their meat.
Hungry for more than stone,
he is willing to draw a snake's fang
from his belt and kill his brother
with its venom. But he won't,
for fear that his brother's wife
would avenge him, and so his
crown would be settled on a head
of red curls as he turns to dust
on a wooden stool that was once
a throne. How meager
is his legion of subjects!
They huddle like starved insects in
their hollow hives, only buzzing
when he forcefully extracts praise
from their petrified jaws. His daughter,
fair maiden, has run away. The wind
has carried her in its long, icy arms
to the rival kingdom, where she
has married their queen. That queen
has knights built like golems, and
a legendary sword to smite the damned.
This emasculated monarch would do
well not to upend the order between
the two countries. But he craves more
than stone. He feasts on gold and jewels
from traitors' corpses. He drapes the scarf
of stars across his neck and ignores
their scorching heat. He can only
endure for so long as pseudo-ruler
of an endlessly shrinking galaxy. Soon,
he will be compressed, squeezed
into a fine powder, and distributed
across the wasteland where he will serve
as seed for a richer, more fertile
empire. But it will be full of fools,
and one of them will succumb
to the devouring of scraps.