Mudlark No. 106 (2016)

The Seven Dreams
of An American King

by Kip Knott

I saw the rich giving workers either
gold or silver or rice,
but when they asked for their own reward,
no one was left.
		         —“The Message of King Sakis”

Night One

I dream suspended in a cage of talons.
Below pass vast grasslands,
a brown river that tears the land
in two, then mountains
and deserts and mountains again,
and, just out of my grasp, the tops of trees
only God could have planted.
One day the walls of my kingdom
will touch two oceans.

Night Two

Over an open ocean,
a great bird drops me
for a fish that could feed my people
an entire winter. I fall
through cold salt water and land
in an open oyster. In time, 
my skin turns smooth and opalescent
until I become more pearl than man. 
When I wake, I know that Hell 
is not the oyster but the pearl 
inside—God, man, and devil born 
out of the irritation of a grain of sand. 

Night Three

Naked, I wander the woods
for a safe place to sleep.
The world is kind and gives
me an abandoned snail shell.
Inside, spirals curl into white distances.
Outside, a cloud hangs 
from the moon like a threadbare coat.
I labor through corridors of grass,
hefting my home on my back. 

Night Four

I’ve had this dream before,
I know. The boy who wanders 
the woods blindly calls 
from a hollow chestnut tree.
When I look inside, the pulp 
crawls with bagworms.
From this moment on, all houses in 
my kingdom must be built of stone.

Night Five

A dozen black wolves 
sniff my motionless body.
The wolf with yellow eyes
drags me by my hair
deep into her lair
where two albino pups suckle 
from her swollen breasts.
When I wake, I tell my soldiers
to load their guns.

Night Six

In this dream I am loved 
and feared for my golden touch. 
Throughout my long life 
my subjects keep their distance. 
They have learned the death of my caress. 
But they have also learned how to harvest 
endless wealth from death. 
Alone, I try to write my lonely story, 
but the pages become too heavy to turn. 

Night Seven

I see my body ablaze,
but there is no apotheosis.
Rather, all of my people stoke 
the flames and dance 
in the strange light of my dying.  
When my last ember cools,
they feed my ashes 
to the goats and pigs.
Nothing of me survives.

Kip Knott has most recently published poems in Barrow Street, Virginia Quarterly Review, and 2River. He is also the author of four chapbooks of poetry: Afraid of Heaven (Mudlark), Everyday Elegies (Pudding House), Whisper Gallery (Mudlark), and The Weight of Smoke (Bottom Dog). In addition to teaching creative writing, American literature, and composition at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio, Kip scours flea markets and antique stores throughout Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Kentucky in search of vintage paintings, which he sells on his Etsy shop ArtfulPicker.

Acknowledgment: An earlier version of the “The Seven Dreams of An American King” was published in England in a magazine called Long Poem in 2010.

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