The Pale Bishop Exits

(in his own words)

‘Too many words
now nothing else is left.
My dull life
livens up in face of death.

My what-I-mights
and catamites depart.
Their absence delves
no abscess in my heart.

Their absent selves,
less aberrant than when,
abrasively,
they laid claim to my thin

and feigned concern,
elicit not one jot
of pity, nor
remorse. The mood I’ve got

is but the one
sufficing me for years,
a camouflage
of caring, for my peers,

and for my Self.
I almost made it work.
It moved me up
from labourer to clerk.

Much later, when
the bishop caught a cold,
it worked again.
He wasn’t very old,

or very strong,
a wispy little man
who died of draughts
accepted from my hand.

They weren’t a curse,
nor poisonous, no need,
just chequered crowns
I conjured up to feed

his inborn fears,
inadequacy, pride.
Within five years
I had his horse to ride,

and bed to fill
with acolytes, like he
had never done.
I had to hang but three.

and after that,
and by the Prince’s grace,
a quieter fief
than mine, a calmer place

has not been seen
since Caesar’s dotage days.
I couldn’t care,
or understand the ways

of those who died
for faith, or those who stayed,
for days sometimes,
alive, while minions flayed

them for some slight
to Prince, or God, or me.
I saw no need
to walk to Galilee,

go mount a cross,
lead martyrs on crusade.
I built high walls,
for glory against trade,

let men dig moats,
then populate each ditch
with those I let
be marked as thief or witch.

I kept the peace
through three proud Princes’ reigns
and, without war,
avoided any gains

in any sense:
no population growth,
no pleasure parks,
no single place where both

sweet love and joy
could find one hour’s respite.
I made each day
a horror night, a pit.

Perhaps men think
I’m monstrous. No one says.
I never met
a single soul could faze

me in my thought
that nothing has a point.
That Nothing’s what
inspires me to anoint

all widespread death
as highest good, and try,
this autumn eve,
to will my Self to die.’

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