Nominated for the 2017 Rhysling Awards
First published in Star*Line Magazine (Winter 2016)
The Dark Lord’s Diary
The years have legs. They march like armies,
Marshalled by seconds over my skin.
But I have not forgotten the hunger of knowing,
Food rotting in parlours while we swelled with worms.
It’s always been time: a minute from midnight,
A spell cast at dawn, a soul plucked at dusk.
I was born again bloody tonight at the graveyard,
I summoned my friends who had starved down to bone.
We tore down the walls. We shattered their swords.
The fat Lords and Ladies we shuttered in pens.
We broke down the doors to the larders of longing.
We feasted that night to the sound of silence.
I have made a system. The same one I used –
to divide morsels by mouths and keep mother alive
back when she was alive. Now her skeleton rattles,
patrolling my hallways. I hope she is proud.
Now I survey my kingdom. Craft number by number.
Out of the dirt comes life and comes love.
To nurture, to nourish. To cherish and grow,
I swear I will build back my country.
There are pages ripped out.
There are tears in our time.
There are seconds lost to conjecture.
Another uprising today. We put it out –
gently, like dimming the candles for morn.
They scream when they see their families: odd,
I fear hunger and failure, not death.
The dead do not eat. Their stomachs don’t swell,
with hunger, they neither complain nor rejoice.
They bring in the harvest and don’t mind the stones,
thrown by cowards and thieves. I envy them.
The dead grow. They walk through my streets like time.
Unending. Enduring. But the living fight air –
They batter my doors and I understand nothing.
They have water and food. What more do they want?
The dead outnumber the living. My larders are fat,
Swelling with food, but they do not eat.
The rest feast with fear, their heads down at my table,
I taste salt and a bitter wonder.
Winter is losing. The castle still stands:
keep empty, but bursting with victuals and vim
Perhaps somewhere else there are those who are starving.
My army will bring them succor.