George Scarbrough


As a king’s public room
Needs the assistance of a chair,
His house needs the height of a hill
To assist the public mind.

The downcast upward look
Is a hill’s requisition
No less than a chair’s claim
Plus the hill’s supplement.

Once in our country lived a king
Who sat daily on the veranda
Of his house in fat fame,
Not knowing he had succeeded:

Joiner of mule and plow,
Hairy harrower, lord of the laden
Haywain, scythe, and enfilading file,
He sat, ignorant of elevation

Reigning under the bulk
Of his noticeability, atop the hill
Like a great frog prince laid back
In his high, hand-hammered chair,

His hands like lilypads
On the ponds of his knees, looking down
Because we were looking up
Into the great groin of his greatness,

Unblinking. We did not know whether
He ever blinked or smiled because
We could not look that far,
And approach was forbidden.

He ruled our lives thus
In his hundred weights, guessed at
Until he died: then we went and made
Him obeisance underived:

But this only after they had sawed
Another door beside the other to tilt
The coffin through: from downhill it looked,
We said, like a cruising cattle car.

Two teams tandem were enough
To get the catafalque to church,
And a dozen prime tenants with pulleys, ropes,
And chains to drop him in his grave.

“The king is dead!” we exulted,
Throwing our roses down.