The Thistle King (From A Portrait of King James IV)
In his hand he held not a rose in glory,
but a crooked thistle, thorn in flesh,
and dressed about his middle
no glowing golden belt,
but a chain of gnarled rusty iron.
The belt reminded him of murder
he could not shake,
the thistle beauty's joke,
today's courtly folly
a thing held coontemptible
as it fades by tomorrow's dawn.
The chain was forged in shame
for a king who had slain his father.
Thistle plucked from unkempt grave
at Cambuskenneth where they interred him,
temporarily, in shame.
So the naked, mourning thorn
is the inheritance
borne by him.
Homespun he stands, this man,
daring the seer to cicumscribe
uncrowned but no lesser,
asking no benediction from time.
The look in the eyes describes
the inner kingdom,
a rule over otherness,
the king of the oncoming night.