So he went to dance among the beggars' fires
and to seek the secrets of their sleep among the lintels,
and he learned what dreams come beneath the lamplight
most times linger on at waking, that they mat and tangle
among the itch of lice and burr, and so he rended his clothes
with stones and stray blades and he appeared as they,
and marked their signs and words on dark beams beneath bridges.

And he tasted the grissle of rat and mongrel, and among the coals
of some evenings chased ghosts with them through the rot
of churches and store-houses until their soles were slashed
and bleeding, until their wounds swelled black and swarmed
with eyeless things, and most nights they mumbled many names
through shivers, and fleas crawled in the frenzy of their heat,
and when they awoke from fevers they were given new names:
Shambles, Tatters, Walker, Grey, and he was one of them,
and wandered among them through their days.

One moonset in September he found a coin among the weeds,
and the face upon it was haggard and wild, and he wondered
what king was this to stare so haunted, what lands
might be governed by one such as he? And he carried
its weight in the sweat of his palm for many evenings,
and felt it grow slick and warm in the cup of his hand,
and it sang in his pockets, but he could not take leave of it
for the merchants refused to trade with him and claimed him
a maker of false currencies.

Though he hungered, he could not eat of it, though
thirst might ember in the chimney of his throat,
he could not drink of it, and so he cursed the face
on the coin and lamented his state among the gutters
of the street, and then one morning among the fogs he fell
among the shimmer of puddles and saw eyes staring
from the water, and he saw in the bend of the circle
his own eyes and the eyes of the coin, and he saw
they were his own.

He rose up among the dandelion and thistle
and beheld all the fallen things and all the forgotten things,
and the sway and bend of all the dying things, and he
saw the lands to which he held court, and the wind
was a voice and his voice was a wind, and it scattered
stray leaves in the corners of the ruins, and the ruins
were a house in which something moaned and rattled,
in which something pounded deep within, in which something
pounded deep, without.

—Brian Long

Brian Long makes his home in Tennessee where he manages an inn.