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The Philosopher King

by Peter Abbs

“The problem now is how to lose me…”
Nietzsche. Turin. 4th January 1889

Here your peregrination ends. No more borders
to cross; no more mountains to scale. The night train
steams through the sleeping Alps, rattling you home.
You chant the Gondola Song; slump under drugs.

In the house of the mad you ramble in French,
eat like a Titan, smash windows, scrawl in the dust.
Every deep spirit bears a mask
but now the actor’s dead, the mask of insanity
is stuck to your face, a permanent grimace.

Soon your sister will crown you philosopher king,
dress you in white, comb your walrus moustache,
place you in a high chair, powder your skin.

Each morning from the high veranda
you gaze towards Buchenwald at the swastika sun.
The steel light chisels the distant pines.
Your posthumous life has already begun.

© Peter Abbs 2009

Peter Abbs is Research Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Sussex. Recent books include TheFlowering of Flint: New and Selected Poems (Salt) and Against the Flow: Education, the Arts and Postmodern Culture (Routledge). Please visit www.peterabbs.co.uk.

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