When nobles are their tailors' tutors;
No heretics burn'd, but wenches' suitors;
. . . When usurers tell their gold i' the field;
And bawds and whores do churches build;
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion:
. . . This prophecy Merlin shall make; for I live before his time.
- King Lear, Act III, Scene II
I am a thing of garbage that once upon a never longed to be
a real little boy.
When my nuncle wore his head upon's crown
then was no age of silver, gold or bronze
but an age of refuse -
tin cans, soup spoons,
twist ties, preservatives
and black banana peels.
By and by these landed on the heap
As if God vomited man's
folly on himself.
Trussed cap-a-pie like knights
in orange coveralls,
in toxic riot gear
they digged my parts from out the seagull-steaming hill
and put me on a belt.
By night and day the wise men looked at me
by day and night they shook their heads
and laughed at how ridiculous it was.
"The King wants a fool," the wisest said at length.
Yet each man knew
no proper fool would do.
"They are made from politics and prattle of late,"
the wisest said again
(the grey beards bobbed assent)
"These are quite well and good, except
they sour easily and age like milk."
"Then there are those," he continued
"who spike their japes and jests
with blasphemies and insults for the sole purpose
to insult and blaspheme.
While purgatory is a hungry place
we should not feed it if we can prevent.
Still," he rubbed his fingers on the trash
and felt a tickle down his spine
as if he'd drawn down lightning.
"What if we made a fool of waste and set him on the heath?
Being waste, he would not know a need
To mix pollution in his jokes.
And being spoilt
how could he further spoil?"
The grey heads then conversed like seagulls.
I would have laughed -
that is, if garbage could -
before it walks and speaks.
Three nights they took to wind up the scraps
with tuna cans and newspapers
whose yellowing consumed the headlines
like atomic clouds.
Three nights they took to distill my blood
from sewage, oil and urinals.
Three nights they took to shape my skull
around a wounded telephone.
Three nights they took to find
and find, at last
in a worn cassette recorder.
"This gives our Fool the gift of prophecy,"
the wiseman said as he fingered the stop.
"What say you, fool?"
In a voice
that sounded like the sun demagnetized
"When nobles are their
No heretics burn'd, but w-n-chs' suitors;
. . . When usurers tell their gold i' --;
And -wds and whor-s do churc--s build;
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great -------:
. . . This prophecy Merlin shall make; for I live before his time."
And they sent me down.
Three suns turned
and it was bitter cold
but finally I came upon the heath
to the palace that stood tall
as a bunker in the clouds.
The guards did not ask for my card
not even for my name.
The hinges squealed
I tottered through the court
on clanking legs, until I found
the King of Shreds and Patches.
'A was a baby in his swaddling clouts.
'a sat shaking his rattle at his girls
a-braying at his map.
"Here is for you, and here
for you, who love me best."
I sat beside him as if I had always done,
a shadow for the king.
'A did not notice me until 'a broke
his crown upon the floor, and his wits
dashed out upon the rocks like spoiled grain.
Then did I clamber up into his lap
kiss him about the chops and shake
my motley prophecy inside 'a's ears.
"then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great -----"
At length he was cast out into the storm
by those who loved him best.
He sat inside a mad house pressing me
to make him laugh until I fell to shreds
around his ankles - no more than tin and twine.
But then he knew the prophecy by rote
and even - God save us all for sin -
what it might mean.
When the ones who truly loved him
came at last
they found him hip-deep in tin and ticket stubs
Attempting to scry
his future in an 8-ball.
It said, "no, not this time."
He laughed all day
and well into the night.
JoSelle Vanderhooft's poetry and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Jabberwocky, Mythic, Aoife's Kiss, Star*line, Not One of Us and others. Her first novel, The Tale of the Miller's Daughter, was released in June, 2006 by Papaveria Press. Her second novel, Owl Skin, will be released this December, also from Papaveria. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, and thinks that mangos are the best fruit God ever created. When asked what poem the word "cherry" immediately made her think of, she replied,
"I have written
you mentioned in
you were probably
into my new poem
but this was tempting
and so silly"