Memory holds, iron hand that strokes my face,
velvet club that knows every tender spot,
silken claw with intimate touch,
water to drown me that I may see clearly.

I see the grand room before my throne,
thronged with courtiers now long gone,
scintillating sycophants silenced,
timorous toadies trembling no more.

Armies sent against me and mine, I vanquished.
Poison in my cup, knife in my bedchamber,
arrow from afar and lover betrayer oh so near,
all for naught.

To the chosen ones sent against me I told the truth,
and they stayed or left
or left to return and stay
as they pleased.

None of them, having been chosen,
had been allowed to think that they, too, could choose.
Every last one was led to believe that “You must.”
It was enough to let them know that “You must”
can be met with
“No.”

And now at the last, I am defeated by the one thing
that no one person could wield alone.
The soft, smothering tide of indifference comes,
bearing away before it all that I worked for,
and discovered too late that I did not want.

You who find me in this hall of crumbled glory,
I do not give you my name.
It was forgotten once.
I do not choose that it should be forgotten a second time.

Instead, I give you this:
When you, too, are forgotten,
follow the prints I leave in this dust.
We will have much to discuss then, you and I.

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