Command in Sardis

Since you ask, I’ll answer your questions–

But I’ve only a moment: Yes.

It’s all I expected

By now I’ve been trained

learned my lesson well–

in this era of tolerance, it’s still safer

not to speak your mind.

I thought they were my friends

more still my comrades

united in perspective and purpose.

But when it was time to rise up

demand justice, speak truth

They sank deep into their seats,

tried to look oblivious or not at liberty

or else disapproving, even knowing better.

I looked the fool–is that what they wanted?

There was a dragon at the door–

threatening to burn the house down

with fiery, smoking sneer

Was he their true friend, or do they

fear him more than they love–love what?

You don’t know either.

I tried to warn them–

When I came away singed having stood by myself

they all should have known!

Everyone would have been better off

if I had been wrong

or–things would have been easier–

but I wasn’t.

And still the dragon sits.

You hear him too.

He’s made another foray, into the vestibule,

the altar shudders with the pounding of his

weighted, claw-tasseled steps

and the temperature has risen 17 degrees.

You see

I’m putting on my armor and preparing a proclamation

but I won’t hold my breath.

Though the ranks have shifted,

the command changed sleeves,

the character is the same–

the fear is endemic, in their nature.

I’ll sally forth as I must

but I know this to be true:

He who would take a stand, must stand alone.

I’ve done it before; I’ll have to do it again

and trust I won’t fall before friendly fire

as my comrades unwittingly ally themselves

to the furnace-like nemesis.

He never has to do much, really,

because they do it for him.

The house divided–how can it shield itself

against his breath?

Do they believe in dragons?

Yet not know one when they see it?

Perhaps they can’t recognize him,

don’t see his bulk, his scales, his spiny ridge,

his great webbed ears and springbok horns,

don’t see his uneven fangs and claws of adamant–

still surely they must feel the heat!

But in the council chamber

you’d think I was mad for wanting him out

wanting to meet him face to face

and tell him to Get Lost!

Better to let the house burn down than make him angry!

But…wait…what is he doing here anyway?

If you can explain it, tell me quick before

I go in to meet him

I should like to know why I’ll be the only one,

thus the necessity of being reduced

to a heap of ashes.

But God help me, I can do no other–

my conscience won’t give me peace

if I just sit down

if I just walk away

like everyone says.

All I asked was that they

do the right thing.

But they don’t know the choice exists–

that here there is right and wrong.

They try to hold me back–why?

Why not just come with me?

Maybe we’d come back alive

but even if not, at least

our epitaphs would be worth reading.

And so I look the fool, I get told off–I am lectured,

and in the end, I still must do it!

I should have expected this–

isn’t it always the way?

But I’ll let you go now–

the dragon is waiting

and this heat is unbearable.

Dragon in Sardis


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