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Poetry #479
(published March 25, 2010)
King of the Slavs
by Marc Vincenz
The King of the Slavs was buried here.
Once, a man from Prague in a Bentley
offered to buy my whole house in cash.
But, I refused.
We drank a bottle of vodka.
My wife cooked rabbit
& the man from Prague
went home in his Bentley
drunk as a skunk.
Still I refused.
I built this house with my own hands
right up from its very foundations.
It's already cost me ten years of my life.
I couldn't just let him dig it up on a whim, could I?
I have seen him once or twice.

Who, the man from Prague?

No, no, never again.
Although his secretary calls me
from time to time
to see if I've changed my mind.
I've seen the King of the Slavs.

You're joking.

Not really. He's quite a character.
Admits that there are diamonds & silver
beneath the floorboards.
Sat right down next to me
when I was in my workshop downstairs.
I was planing a piece of timber.

You seem quite casual about it.

Well, he is causal. The King of the Slavs
rubs his hands—it's cold downstairs—
& then, like he's known me forever, says:
'Things are good for you, eh Vladimir?
Good house. Good wife. Three strong children.
Not bad Vlad, not bad.'

So what did you do?

I just went on planing my piece of wood.
I like planing wood.
Get it all flat and smooth.
What could I do?
He was just there, talking to me.

& then?

Well, he told me about his wives.
The ones that gave him trouble
& the one he loved the most:
Tatiana with the long, black hair.
She made him meet his final end.
An arrow got him
in the side of his head.
Right here, just above his cheek.
Thinking about Tatiana did him in.
They buried him right where he fell.
Brought all the diamonds & silver
& piled them in his grave
along with Tatiana
who was only sixteen.
He was already fifty-five, the old bugger.

So, are you going to dig it up?

What? & sail off into the sunset
with a wife and three kids?
No, I'd rather just finish building my house
from the ground up.
I've never really believed in ghosts.
&, mercifully,
my wife is quite blond.

Marc Vincenz was born in Hong Kong, but has lived in England, the US, Spain, Switzerland, and worked for many years in Shanghai, China. Currently living in Iceland, he writes a bi-weekly column on the occult for the Reykjavik Grapevine, Iceland's only English-language newspaper.

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