A week of Poems: Amy Leigh Wick’s ‘I, Melchoir’

 

 

I, Melchior

 

To be honest, I didn’t know Baz or Casper

before we took the trip.  We studied

in different cities and my focus was on the history of stars

while Casper predicted movement. Neither of us

know what Baz studied exactly, but it was good

having him around.

 

Many nights over the small flame of our fire

we guessed at why the dream chose us,

and most days I wondered if I was a fool

to leave my life’s work for a single light.

 

Traveling west we saw the far reaches

of an empire whose gold leafed crown

would wrap around the head of every

nation if it could.  I didn’t mind the welcome

given to us by its governors and princes,

the cold limoncello and soft cheeses, the grapes

brought to our mouths by slender bangled wrists;

 

But there was something about that king—rouged

and fat, chewing a leg of meat, feeding us like we

were to be eaten next, asking exactly who it was

we were off to see—that reminded me not to be a man

given to appetite. I closed my eyes to the women

and remembered there was somewhere

I was supposed to be going.

 

The last days of travel were quiet, thirsty days,

full of dust and flies.  Nights we slept close in the dark,

because Baz insisted we not light any fires.  We argued

about whether we were on course and what we were

looking for in the first place until we found ourselves

 

under the star, at the door of a house.

It was nothing really.  A poor place and the girl

who answered the door was about fourteen, with a naked baby

looking out at us from behind her skirts where he stood.

 

Casper shoved me and I almost spoke, but didn’t.

Baz knelt, and that decided it. I lowered myself to my knees

right in the doorway, and as I did I felt something

no book has ever been able to explain.  Some strange peace,

the sound of beating wings filled the air and the child laughed.

 

We unloaded our treasures and as we did his mother’s

face was wet with tears.  She didn’t look at the spices,

she wasn’t marveling at the cost. Her head was tilted,

her mouth slightly open as if dreams she’d had

were playing out before her.  It was enough,

her silent grace, the child’s laugh–to answer at least

the only question worth asking.  We left at dusk

into a different world than we had come from.

 

The first sleep in the desert brought us the same nightmare;

a slaughter of children and the rouged king’s laughter

heard above the moan of young mothers.  We parted ways

in the dark, with a vow to never look for each other again

for fear of killing the King we’d found.

 

Did we find what we were looking for, or were we meant

to find something that would take all of history to unravel?

I think about Baz, face to the ground in that doorway,

when a star falls suddenly from the sky and wind blows out the last embers of fire.

 

©Amy Leigh Wicks

 

 

 

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