Sunday, June 19, 2011

weekly poem...


Wiretaps and tapes, concealed
bugs and mikes,
intercepted letters
full of passionate declarations, contradictory
how attached he’d grown
to the subject’s documents, revising and rearranging
the influx of intelligence
with a sentiment, he acknowledged, almost
like love: he felt
the cool gray eyes of his superiors
trained on him, rebuking him
for swerving, for letting
himself go—such tender obsession
occasioned by the file!
Not quite the professional style
he or the Agency expected…

But such official loyalties
seemed mere protocol to this!—
what was wrong with him,
he wondered, that he construed
the documents to make the subject
seem a hero,
a bastard whose sole patrimony
was a pair of shoes and a rusted sword
left by an unknown father beneath a stone?

And yet his exploits in the tabloids,
the headlines screaming,


were these heroic
different in kind from the rumors,
of a rape, a murder?

—But to have met undisguised the devouring monster!
To have escaped the twisting tunnels of the maze…

On balance, for such a life,
the hero’s reputation wasn’t bad:
think of the opportunities for evil
a man of such qualities must have had!
How well he knew him—an essential innocence
that followed impulse, blind
to protocol, not noticeably more kind
than he was cruel.
But to stamp Case Closed and cease
gathering intelligence,
to give the hero up, almost, he admitted,
like a lover…:
such limits the hero
unknowingly transgressed!
And the Agency, cold-blooded where
limits were concerned (“mere protocol”?—
more like a second backbone!), committed
to keeping order, could not afford
such sentiments—the Chief of Security
felt an awful pang: that the work of intelligence
should lead to this…

He leaned back in his chair and sighed:
a forged genealogy certifying
that the hero’s father was a king; a mutual
assistance pact
to aid in taking back the usurped crown:
he could see them now, the wind
blowing lightly, the two of them sweating
as they climbed the cliff, discussing
the terms, exchanging information,
how would his own face look
staring down across the sea
as he gestured earnestly toward
some island, saying,
“According to our sources,
the tax revenues…”
And then, edging
the hero closer to the cliff, pointing
out the harbor, he’d push.

Tom Sleigh

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