The Court Jester by Michael Montlack

Tethered to the throne by my own talent.

Of course I relished the power sometimes.
To light a gloomy countenance. My quips,
my acrobatics—like trained lightning bolts.
How the court, in all their finery, folded
over their fat middles, snorting like boars
at feeding time. At my best, I snatched
their hot air, letting it inflate my breast.

And yes, I despised the King, the same way
a parent abhors an infant whose shrieks
shatter the serene night. Wars, Plague,
the Queen lame with another bout of gout—
he needed to play. To suckle. To forget.
And didn’t I need someone to rescue?
To forget I was unable to rescue myself.

It was most lonesome at night, the chill
in the stone walls seeping into my blood,
extinguishing the torch of my creativity.
The nightmares came in tapestry scenes:
How I’d eventually fall. Out of fashion.
Out of favor. A stale loaf of peasant bread
on a table jammed with cheese and goose.

Queer, crippled—I would’ve been a true fool
not to be waiting for a shove through the gate,
for the drawbridge to rise behind me. Always
I heard the growling stomachs of his beasts
ready for a snack. The last joke on me.

But make no mistake. I knew love. Not the kind
the milkmaid dreamed of. Nor the kind the Queen
gave up on. No, I had the attention of the King.
At his weakest. At his proudest. How many can
say that? Exactly—I had that man by the balls.
And only I could tickle them the way he liked.
Michael Montlack is editor of the Lambda Finalist essay anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them (University of Wisconsin Press) and author of the poetry book Cool Limbo (NYQ Books). Recently his work has appeared in North American Review, The Offing, Hotel Amerika, Los Angeles Review, Poet Lore, and Cincinnati Review. His prose has appeared in Huffington Post and