Walter the Red

Are your pillows fine
              I asked them
          & they said yes until
they started to complain
                 about the way I
                 spoke: muttering
                 dust into air,
                    apparently skewing
                    the TV reception.

Dust?  I said,  Where?
          & they said, In
              the dirt, with the
              iris and the pupil;
              In the happenstance
                        of creation
     O, Creator.

Where are you from, they said,
They knew it wasn’t Serbia
          even though I never followed
                              that war
I was too young; all I could add
       to newscasts was,
       Is that thing still going on?
But now I’m drawn to the way
       the conflict is
       treated in movies—
       with Owen Wilson or Helen Mirren.

The Queen.  That’s what they call me here.
Not like the rock band
          but like the leader
     stripped of his power to
          keep the pillows clean,
who grew up thinking that all maps were final.
Countries were rocks and their capitals the centers
          of everything that happened there.  But
          what became of Yugoslavia?  And what of Belgrade?

I asked them to call me
          The King instead,
but they said that name
          was RESERVED.
For who?  I said.

And they said,
          For the one
                    who will quiet the channels,
                    who will still the atlases,
                    who will keep the damn pillows clean.

They said He was coming tomorrow to change the wallpaper, too.

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