One morning one summit and a nominal peace
was reached under date trees and morning heat,
men with perfect teeth and men without,
three hundred bright flags sulking like tears.
You learn to bake slowly on royal clay courts,
praising a war you tried to avoid—
call it the beginning of a childhood dream—
because the future needs more optimists prepared to lie
than resignations signed by those
afraid of being labeled hypocrites.
But jumping one rock for another
in a flood you tried to dam
still will muddy you.
So you find the best positions slip away,
even if your footing is secure.
Since you know how vision blurs before a brawl
you will rein in a slow consideration of the facts,
aware that it’s been tempered with everyone’s worst fears
to prop a truth already chosen by their clocks.
To keep the world from thinking
it’s the kingdom of our corporate knights,
devising plans to slay the golden dragons alone
you must refresh old friendships,
risking applause if you succeed,
or absolution for your efforts if you fail.
Either way you can be framed an opportunist—
speculating on the world’s opinion—
by hawks who don’t know why
a man with nothing more to gain
hinges their invasion on permission from the powerless.
And you must volunteer to save them!
An equally deluded world awaits your counsel
with reservations in all that you propose:
Not that you’ll have more than circumstantial tapes
and fuzzy photographs to show.
And no matter how sincere your speech
the circumvention will make it sound so glib
that when opposition comes, it’s sympathetic to your cause,
but amused to watch you twisting in the wind.
So thanked and scolded and squeezed between philosophies
you’ll go back to the capital to pay
for fashioning the truth from things that seemed true yesterday.
By then your life may seem to be careering—
one long Mercedes ride on an unpaved road,
down which you disappear from history’s bad dreams
as your favors fade to crimes.
just hope one day your words taste better
than what’s become of mine.