1465 c/o Jason Cook

The Roses

The world was mine once. Or at least as much of it as I could see. Kings and Queens framed in glittering gilt and perfumed splendour listened closely when I spoke, offered me their treaties, their concessions, their daughters. The people, the great, swarming seas of unwashed grumblings, held their blank-eyed children to watch my cars and horses and nobility trot proudly through their midst. And the women…and the men. And the leisure and the passion and the watching the world, my world, through the windows of my palace. Armies stood at attention, navies waited for my word to fill their sails.

          Now as I climb the stairs of my tower, the world spins on without me. Continents undiscovered and empires unfounded, waiting once in the throttle under my hand. From these narrow windows, slits in the walls, barred, history moves on, blithely, me a snickering footnote. She tosses my tokens and weaves another man’s roses into her hair. Roses. The damn things are everywhere. In the night I’m sure I can hear their vines creeping up the walls like an unwelcome lover with filthy intentions. I yell for my paiges, I yell for my defoliants, I yell because everything growing from the soil is mine – the harvest and the glory is mine. Reasons don’t matter, though, when the only response you hear is your own words, thrown back empty and mocking.

          I remember the comfort of madness, how the world would just disappear, thoughts nothing but the cartography of vanished spots. Between them, those fantastic hollows where a man could crawl into the center of the world, for a day, for a year. The mind only runs in ease, though. It won’t leave me here – or it won’t fit through the narrow windows. When I close my eyes, parades clatter and shout past my ears, but faintly, faintly, and fainter everyday. We’d run, and even running to freedom, we felt the world slipping from our hands, everything solid made from sand. From palaces and brocade to the rough woolen corners. They dragged me from a gully, rocks digging into the softness of my palms as I scrabbled up the banks.

          From here I can see a language born, I see the greatest city on Earth in the seeds below my tower. Far to the east, mysterious lands struggle, helpless, with pregnant rivers swelling and cherry blossom flurries. The world gives birth to fantastic wars, to revolutions – the world is crushed to the breast of an Empire that should have been mine. How will death find me here? Love will never come looking here, won’t come on the draft between the grey, unforgiving stone. And the straw-haired maidens with rosebud lips and dazzled eyes and willing hips, the beautiful men of passionate poetry will seek their Gods between other sheets. The queen is run, or dead, or has already forgotten me. The past fades, the future storm s away and I, here, forgotten.