We read about the Hero’s life:

how he was born,
little runtlet, in a large
family. They didn't think
of contraception at that time.
The more hands,
the better for the harvest.
Except he went to school
and kept going.
His sisters doted on him.
He learned one, two, seven,
maybe sixteen languages.
He knew how to flex
the point of a foil and just
lightly graze a shoulder
or the edge of the gorget.
We read about his exploits,
how he medicined the blindness
out of his mother's eyes,
how he wrote letters that made
priests and governors tremble.
We read about his travels,
his lovers, how they all had
the same heart-shaped face,
the same dark curls. Everything
we learned about novels, we
may have first learned from him:
how every town has a philosopher,
a drunk, a woman crazed
with love for her sons;
a snake in a holy tunic,
a cynic ready to burn down
a country that has no love
for his kind. A boatman
taking a secret away
that isn't ready for its time.

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