Once, in that long ago and far away of being eleven or twelve,
I had, as was my wont (being blessed with the twin gifts
Of curiosity and time), picked up a book my father
Had left open and began to read. The story was a curious one, indeed:
Two men, a stoic and monosyllabic knight and a world-weary bishop,
(Drunk with fear, wine or likely both) were on a quest to kill the devil.
The tale sped along until the point where the pair succeeded in their mission,
Complete with an illustration showing a huge and hairy horned beast
Sprawled across some vaguely alpine mountainscape
Bleeding profusely from a great slash in his throat.
Strangely, the book did not end there; there were several pages
Detailing the eviction of impoverished families
From their equally forlorn hovels, the deflowering
And subsequent murder of a young girl in a wretched slum,
The machinations of a king (indeed, the very monarch
Who had dispatched the knight and bishop
To undertake the ostensible suicide mission
Which had succeeded so spectacularly, if implausibly)
To launch an undeclared war on a peaceful and unsuspecting neighbor.
After carefully replacing the bookmark,
I went to find my father; he was at the kitchen table,
Grading papers or paying bills or caught in some other minutiae
Of the workaday world. I stood their, hands on hips,
Until such time his attention wandered my way,
At which point I waved the book at him stammering
That can’t be. They killed the devil,
But bad stuff just kept happening. That doesn’t make any sense.
My father sat in silence for a moment,
And, pushing up his glasses, said quietly
Men, even our demons, they die easily enough
But ideas, a legacy…
And with that he returned to the papers in front of him.
I stood there for a few moments, before I tromped away,
Grumbling to myself about how he’d been no help at all
That child has long since flown,
Carried off by a universe indifferent to youth
As it is to so many other things,
So many comings and goings deserved and unwarranted
(My own father gone some scant months
After that kitchen conversation; while out
For milk and ice cream, his interest
As to what extent April had brought the Kinzua Creek
Out of its banks led him on an unusual route home.
He likely never saw the drunk– taking a back road
To avoid the sheriff’s deputies– barreling too wide
Around a sharp corner), so many instances
Of wars to end all wars
Of one more edition of peace in our time,
All the while pairing our lives off
In the unlikeliest of couples:
Pestilence and porch swings, famines and festivals
Massacres and marigolds, and all the while
We roll on, roll on.