Trials

Why does the king in the story
keep plodding back and forth

through the graveyard, a talking
corpse with Scheherazade ambitions

clinging to his back, threatening
to explode his head if he doesn't

respond to the riddle at the end
of every tale it tells? Why

didn't he refuse the invitation
to undertake such a task in the first

place? The girl in the story
who sits on the ground in a dirty

skirt, patiently picking each
numbered grain of wheat, ordered

to collect all of them by sun-
down; and the one who stole a taste

of the gods' ambrosia and nectar
condemned to bend forever toward water

receding from his thirst, to reach
for fruit rising away from his out-

stretched hunger. Whatever keeps
returning to test us in life,

we're told, are lessons we haven't
learned. But whose hand behind

the screen writes the riddles, takes
pleasure instructing stage attendants

to turn off the sprinkler system or
raise the branches with pulleys? Who

dresses a body of questions in decaying
flesh and suspends it from the trees?





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