The Shortest Short King & Tourist

The Shortest Short King

is the same height as an Emperor Penguin,
a clown car, a median fourth-grader on roller skates,
and though his stature isn’t a punchline
necessarily, he behaves like Grade-A dickhead,
buys all the beer at the pub, drives his monster truck
without a license and crashes into public buildings,
so, of course, we think about his size a lot, because
it would explain, well, not everything, but a lot!
And I make a funny or my neighbor makes a funny
or, we make a collective funny, and when the gag’s
no longer secret, no longer an itty-witty whisper
passed like a note between school chums, he outlaws
the act of appearing taller than himself. We call bullshit,
call it the stupidest law in our history of laws, but he removes
those citizens who, struggle as they may, cannot hunch low
as the law requires. On the outskirts, away from the city’s billion
tiny ears, I admit in my most miniature voice, I’ve humored
my little brother, the friend of a friend, lesser tyrants with less
power, and, in the spirit of nicety, upheld similar rules
we’ve imposed upon ourselves. I’ve thrown the basketball
game to an inconsolable Bonaparte, I’ve hidden my hair
beneath a derby hat for my depressed and balding uncle! I’ve
held the door for the slowest slow-walker and felt highly
stunned by my second-nature grace. His Majesty should’ve
asked rather than demanded, says my friend, stooped like he’s
to give his daughter a pony-ride, can you imagine his baby barks
softening like a pillow? We chinwag about illusion–how one
privileged pipsqueak harboring many big angers brings an empire
to its knees, so now we must bend our backs, kiss the dirt
with our foreheads. Meanwhile, The Short King
bounces on his trampoline, rises to new altitudes. He minimizes
history, downsizes our air fleet to his one big-ass plane, and
the police post notices banning language which measures
the vertical, save ‘colossal’ for The King and ‘smol’
for model subjects. Our yard sticks are confiscated,
and there are plans to slay subsequent stories off multi-story
buildings, to flatten the skylines and forests like a buzzcut.
We looked amazed at how much taller we perceive
The Short King or how much our world has shrunk
and yet, despite our awe, our tiny acts of reverence, he remains
joyless as always. A vast gulf of mystery inhabits our puny silence
and we perform our obedient charade with such finesse, it feels
like God’s laughing out of earshot. We bide the hour. He knows
we know he’s short. Can he trust what he hears? He knows
we won’t forget, because no matter the anvil’s magnitude,
his behemoth artillery, the titan hand in the sky,
there’s always a spark of mischief he can’t extinguish, a tiny
seed of rebellion which can grow beyond his capacity
for imagining. He swindles the sky away from us,
so we plot a higher sky.


I don’t know how I ended up in this strange land. 
In pursuit of a feather propelled by the wind, or maybe

seduced by the thrill of believing a lie? I can’t remember
five minutes ago, let alone yesterday, the day before, the pattern

on my underwear. When I fish into my pocket for a compass,
I yank out lint and the golden wrapper of a chocolate bar.

I had a map once, I think, a long time ago. I used it
as toilet paper. Now I’m in my thirties, which means I wield a sword

and my swing is lousy. I’ve opinions about death, and they grow
lamer by the hour. If enough time passes, I may find myself

forced to hunt for survival, but I don’t think I can kill a wild animal,
no matter if the wild animal in question is determined to kill me.

This includes the shitty animals, like coyotes and badgers. I’d light
a campfire, and with my luck, burn down the forest. I’d burn down

the sky and the moon and the stars. I shouldn’t cave to self-pity,
but newsflash, no one else is going to pity me. All my old friends

are villainous or dead. Do I fear losing my way because I feel
like I have something to lose? Remind me, God, what do I have

worth keeping? I pray for sunlight, thunder booms. I think
there’s a tick sucking the blood out of my ass.    

Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash