Kingly

The enemy saw my girth, my rude way of dressing,
my cheerful nature,
and branded me a fool.
They were wrong, of course;
they thought to weaken me,
humiliate me with their demands:
as if eating a huge bowl of porridge
would leave me unfit for battle!
They learned, to their grief,
how wrong they were,
when I slew Cirb, son of Buan,
when he entered the fray.

Some among my own thought me simple;
they forgot my deeds of strategy
at the Plain of Props, and thought
they could trick me into giving up
such things as were mine;
when my most beautiful son
sought a place of his own, and
my half-brother,
the most skilled one of all of us,
thought to help him, they could come up
with no more than a petty play on words,
and that in our own tongue;
yet they thought that enough to take
the Bru na Boinne, and I let them,
for I love my son, and am I not
the most amiable and easy-going
of all of our folk?

Some among the bards think me
indolent, and lazy, and slow,
content to let others do my work for me,
as when I handed command of our forces
to my half-brother during the heated battle,
as when I might have served as champion
to our silver-handed king, but left that task
to my brother; but I had other matters to
contemplate and carry out, and those things
required more of me than a moment’s stolen grace.

Some thought me weak and cowardly;
those who were thus mistaken are all dead.
Skulls smashed in battle, brains spilled,
blood loosed in rivers from the veins where it swam.
I suffer none to hold me in such contempt,
and showed my foes the errors of their ways.
None may stand against my mighty club,
nor the heft of the thews that wield it,
nor the strength of the one who lifts it.

Some account me lusty, and on this,
they are correct, though mistaken are those
who think I show disrespect for my wife
by my trysts with others;
but when was it a crime for a man or a god
to admire a beautiful face, a shapely form,
and want to explore such beauty further?
If such is a crime, then all of us are criminals,
and not just men, but women too, though
many would not care to admit to such.
But I refuse to recoil from such joy and pleasure
when the opportunities present themselves,
and of me and my prowess, no woman I’ve
bedded has ever complained.
Even the Phantom Queen Herself,
fierce and dreadful and terrifying to behold,
has known the embrace of my arms,
the skill with which I wield that other club of mine,
and when we were finished, She lamented not.
In this, I am content.

Those who might mock me, think to cheat me,
hold me in disdain, find me unwitting, beware:
Among all the Tuatha de, you will find no greater King.
Underestimate me at your peril.

[Poet and novelist Jennifer Lawrence just released her first poetry collection, Listening For Their Voices, as well as two novels, Fire on the Mountain and Black Pinions. All three are available through Lulu.]

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