All the Love You’ve Got

Carl Phillips

And now, having dismissed everyone as he
wishes he could dismiss his own dreams that make each
night restless—that same unswayable knowledge, and
the belief in it, that he is
king here, which means
being a stranger, at least outwardly, to even the least
trace of doubt—after all of this, the king has stepped
from the royal tent, is walking toward the sound
of water, where the river must be. There’s the river,
rivering south,
as rivers tend to. Beside the river,
two men are fucking. Young men. Almost too young
to even know about fucking, thinks the king, who can’t
help noticing how the men bring a somehow grace
to the business between them—a grace that some might
confuse with love. But the king
rarely makes mistakes,
which is to say, he knows mercy when he sees it. What
does mercy have to do with fucking? What does love
have to do with grace? What are dreams but the only
rivers memory knows how to make? There’s a kind of
to how the men routinely but unpredictably trade
places entering and withdrawing from each other. It’s as if
they’re singing a song that might go “I’m the king, no you’re
the king and I’m the river, no you’re the river.” On and on,
like that. Leave them; they do
no harm. The king making
his slow, insomnia-ed way back. The night dark but not dark
entirely: moonless, yes, but through the pines enough stars
still visible. Whoever goes there,
let me pass. Beneath
the brocaded cloak, each bead stitched to it by hand,
beneath the cloak of some more breathable, lighter fabric
beneath that, the king’s cock rests like tenderness itself
against the king’s left thigh. How soft the stars look.

Last updated September 23, 2022