With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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I live now like a deposed king, which is to say, with a slight air of once-proud nobility I cling to as I cling to the rags and tatters of my existence because it’s all I’ve got left. All except for one thing I was famous for as a king, and that is that I can still sing. If not as often, just as well. There is not much to sing about anymore, but when the calling arises, the gift is there.
My kingdom was always small. About the size of one of those pearls of ancient life: a small city-state somewhere on the Mediterranean. We were carefree then, we made poems & sculptures as furiously and joyously as we danced and made love. And our women! Supple as bullrushes, yet tart, and skilled in the arts of lovemaking and wit — and oddly enough (or perhaps not so oddly), equally skilled in the art of poetry. It is not that women or young girls lack this talent — only that they have seldom exercised it. Today, as they spread their wings in the streets and elsewhere, may they spread their spirits as well . . . make marvelous new poems, paintings, songs, sculptures, dances, plays and on & on & on . . . with a hope it doesn’t take them too far away from men — or from a basic humanity.
Why was I deposed when I took a trip to a neighboring prelate’s kingdom? Well, there are, in all kingdoms, jealous relatives, so-called friends, ready to put you and your entourage to the knife. It is, as they say, the way of the life. Of course, I did leave a space there for someone to occupy, n’est-ce-pas? But this does not get at the basic question of why they did it. I do not understand it myself. Probably I am lucky the coup occurred when I was away.
We have, in my present circle — made up of a few deposed kings and a few wise men, a couple of holy men and a couple of clowns & singers who either remember the old days or know something comparable — speculated on it endlessly. We have come to no firm conclusions. Could it be, I wonder, that I circulated and copulated too frequently with the populace — with the dancing-girls, the servants, the beat and humble mountain-men on their periodic sojourns to the city, with the craftsmen, the builders, the scribes? I left no one out in the circle of my own rooms (and at this I would eye one of my more sleazy advisors), and then, often as not, I’d take off on another jaunt to a mountain hermitage for another comings and goings and this was by design, but it was not of course the design circumscribed for me by my immediate advisors, overseers and various ministers, prelates & ambassadors. Almost to a man they counseled: It’s dangerous out there, in the streets, in the forests. Outside the palace. This turned out to be untrue. The only time I was ever attacked with a knife was right in my own quarters, in my studio, actually, bent over some poem or tale. I survived the incident. Not without difficulty of course. I left shortly afterwards for a visit to a cousin with a cultivated but tart sister and marvelous grounds, residence, etc.
Before that I usually laughed at that kind of talk. It was, I always said, just as dangerous right here in my round of chanting, meditation, together with lots of hiking, singing, and strange to tell (or not so strange to tell?), lots of lovemaking as well. We didn’t find it so terribly difficult to find maidens and widows in the mountains and forests. For these fellows, forsooth, always love to live, love a feast and merrymaking, and often have dancing-girls following them about. I mostly travel alone, occasionally with a dancing-girl or two if I can locate any. The people where I now live sense my powers but they are none too sure exactly what my powers are. Sometimes I’m not so sure myself. As I said, I sing songs, and I am always one to make a dance, down a jug of wine — perhaps because I spend so much time alone meditating . . .
I have so far said nothing of kingship or the godhead. How, I asked one merry fellow, am I different from anyone if the godhead is in everyone? He gave the answer expected, for we had talked and meditated many an hour on this kind of thing. . . .
“It is only when the godhead is assumed that it becomes actual godhead in the living,” he said.
“And acted upon?” I added.
“And acted upon.”