I am enormously grateful to Sara Bareilles for making the song “King of Anything”.
For a long time I’ve felt a sense of feisty catharsis when belting out,
“Who cares if you disagree, you are not me / Who made you king of anything? / So you dare tell me who to be? / Who died and made you king of anything?”
The whole song was my starting point on this poem. Every word borrowed was with the utmost admiration.
I’ll hold your crown
O self-important one.
Did they hand them out
at the cult meeting?
Do you pool your self-righteousness
into a pile
and congratulate each other
on how much
you love the sinner?
Did you pray your way
into a time warp?
Or did you curse the passage of time itself,
so that it’s caress would not touch you;
though it is a salve for all wounds.
It bewilders me
that the words you say
all come out the same.
“return to us”
“we pray for you”
I roll my eyes.
Listening to you
is such a weird flashback.
I guess you never realized
that if I had wanted to stay
I would never have left.
Your delusions of me
don’t even portray
who I was at last sighting.
Belligerently, you persist,
in thinking that I’m obsessed
with needing your acceptance.
With not even a hint
you attempt to tell me
who to be:
to suggest that if I don’t want
to be part of you
then I should just go away
and do my own thing.
What on earth do you think I’ve been doing
for the last decade?
Did you suppose I was pining after you,
and your fifth-grade relationship rules?
Do you think that I stubbornly rehearse
the lines from our last fight
while shaking my fist at your photograph?
How might we interpret the fact
that you were prepared to question me
when I called you unexpectedly?
I had nothing to say
that I have called you from a different universe,
and yes, also from the future.
We still both speak English,
but I don’t think we understood each other.
You are a star in your own eyes
around which all else revolves,
so you struggle to conceive
that I have left the crazy cult trajectory altogether.
So much entanglement
has made it impossible for you to imagine
a different world,
or a tool sharp enough
to cut the ties that bind.
O proudly deceived one,
I know you can’t see
that I am free – free – free,
but I guess I should give you notice
that there’s no one here to save.
I didn’t know then what I know now,
so here’s what I should have said,
edited with hindsight:
I’m not coming back!
The person that you miss has died,
if she ever existed at all.
There is no one who can return
to fill those shoes
or wear that box.
And until you bury
those ideas about how I used to be
you can never join me in meeting
as indifferent strangers.
But if I learned of a stranger
what I know about you
I would categorize him in
the “not-friend-material” zone,
because you take offense
at comments that aren’t about you.
You’re passionate about being paternalistic,
and wouldn’t hesitate to sit
in the same seat of judgement for 10 years.
what a murky bag of loyalty and self-assurance you carry.
I wouldn’t touch it with a 39 and ½ foot pole.
That festering nonsense could be contagious…
it’s better for me to remain invisible.
Here’s your crown back –
I’ll leave you this space,
in your own universe.
I’m learning not to argue
with the ghosts of my past.