Another king I knew had twelve champions,
each chosen for his astrological sign.
My favourite was the Piscean who combined
courage and gentleness but who eventually
was slain by the Aquarian, a mess of
ambition and impeccable manners.
The women of the court barely differed
from the harems I had once pretended to guard:
brittle, fickle, beautiful and intelligent
in matters of court affairs and male intrigue.
In everything to do with the quotidian
they were vulgar, inept and invalid.
This time I had a savage paramour,
a magus like myself with no more regard
than I for inbred kings or their progeny.
In the ambling course of things we made a good
bad pair and parted the best of enemies.
He made me think of love’s discrepancies:
how with the best will in the world and a spilled
cornucopia of physicalities
two can pass from strangers into strangers.
There was no intimacy we had not shared
including several of our own invention,
no finer or grosser point of the body’s being
we had not explored, the stupra and beatitudes
of the mind’s behaviour mapped. Once and forever
our feelings and ideas were exchanged
and the emotions’ gamut intermingled.
Yet all we had to show for it were ashes
of the long caress, the brief orgasmic pyre
ensconced three moments longer with our magics.
And not a single scion of the harrowing,
no daughter to reheat our tepid ageing.
All I remember of his individual
features is a single red-flecked iris,
a stem and testes like the stele at Delos,
taste for wine made slightly effervescent
with minuscule amounts of scented sherbet,
and never the slightest wish to know himself.
The king expelled all of us from his court
a periodical purge. The eleven remaining
champions were auctioned to barbarians.
I have never known the date of my birth nor want to.
The stars are incandescently impersonal.