I wove a wreath of thorns one day
for some poor, ruined prisoner
whose name I don’t recall and cannot say.
We got a laugh at him, all right,
who claimed, I guess, to be a king,
though he had never uttered such a thing,
but only spoke of love through bleeding lips.
He was a tramp, and not of royal birth,
so we would see just what his realm was worth.
I made a crown with kingly flowers entwined,
and thorns so sharp they lanced my hands,
and as I did I greeted all that pain,
for it contained the wounds and years of wounds
I’d borne and now could shove away,
and make another bear instead of me.
Oh, it was worth the pain to jeer
and jam it on his sorrowing head.
And as I crowned him with contempt,
my bleeding hands about his face,
thorns piercing me and him as one,
though mine sweet pain of causing pain,
and his the pain of suffering,
he looked me in the eye,
though trembling, tenderly,
as if I were the one now dying, or had died,
and reached with something, though his hands were tied,
and touched a place beyond that place,
and then it seemed that something drained away,
though what it was I could not say.
After we crowned that pitiful king,
and beat him some, to clarify some things,
we killed him, as we always do.
I took a rest and caught my breath,
and went home from that little hell
and met a different kind of death
that it would take me longer to endure,
the strangest thing: my hands were healed,
and something else as well.