When the fat lady sings

I came to cheer on men and join a congregation
venerating icons, the prodigious youthful talents
we’d exalted, practiced and arrayed to be our champions –
although some days / it seemed they did not know
what they should do, or could, to execute a simple game;

lacking evidence of leadership, either for them
or amongst them, they became a hollow army
(despite their brave display and dazzling wealth,
their subtle émigré crown prince and willing acolytes)
shuttling sideways as a reflex, passing closer to the end

of a campaign which saw them parlay opportunity
for petty debased triumphs and foreseeable disasters
and another season fade away in impotent frustration,
defacing our identity, cleaving hands from minds
and riving captious factions into schisms that consume
their energies in hardening each against the others

by exposing primal outbursts and staunch loyalties rooted
in a bedrock of allegiance, the common burden of our hearts,
churned by hope until we babble, gurn and squabble
through the tired days till the redeeming curtain falls
to mark a lifetime’s work – a leader’s glorious career –

that ends, as all except a chosen few will end,
in failure (if not in death / from premature pneumonia)
to be measured – even balanced – only afterwards
by our tribe of partisans and a plague of faithless
ghouls, in the perfect but so partial view of hindsight.

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