You think, perhaps, that it is easy to be mad;
“Farewell, Reason! I’m off; I’ve slipped your chain.”
I tell you it is not. Three years, seven months,
Six days I have followed Sweeny, who was King
And now lives in trees. Madness, like much else,
Takes practice. For the first six months, Sweeny
Could understand never a word the birds said
And feared their endless tweeting would drive him sane.
He could fly as soon as he and reason parted
But was clumsy at it, crashing into trees,
Perching awkwardly at night, liable to fall.
He flies well now; threading through the forest
Listening to the curlews and laughing at their jokes
(His courtesy is royal; curlews’ humor is dull).
His dreams tell him he will be king again
Unable to flutter a foot above the ground.
I prepare against that day.
One morning I woke on the ground
Which is where I accustomedly sleep
And found Sweeny gone. From the branch
Where he had roosted for the night, a cuckoo
With strange markings stared at me, bright-eyed.
Two hawks perched beside him, stiff and glaring.
In Sweeny’s service you grow used to odd sights
Nor did it seem amiss when the right-hand hawk said
“In the presence of an emperor, it is customary to kneel
Until he bids you rise.”