Thursday, April 12, 2018

"The Guardsman of Qalaloom" by James Frederick William Rowe

The Guardsman of Qalaloom
James Frederick William Rowe 

This world is not for us
Its sunsets - its cities
"Qalaloom" Watercolor & Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
None of it is meant for us
We are as smoke 
Passed through a ray of light

Even when we are within
We are apart
Making use, but not using
Experiencing, but not knowing
Strangers in our home

Ours is to fight
For that which cannot be ours
To observe all the pleasures
Yet shun them all
But for the pleasure of war

Yes, war - that is ours
I say war and not protection
Though we are guardsmen in name
For it is war that is ours alone
Which is ours to claim

This spear in hand
Strong, steady, certain
As my soul is strong
As my heart is steady
As my duty is certain

It is the mark of what I am
That which distinguishes me
What sets me apart
Which puts me aside
Which marks me as unique

From this height I can see so far
So much, so many
Such sights, such scenes
Witnessed from afar
Always detached, never part

So strange
So strange to witness peace
To see a life lived without care
For indulgence and joy
So unlike me, so unlike

Why then is it familiar?
Familiar as something new is familiar
Other worlds, other lives
Other choices, other fates
This could be mine - this could be me

I do not envy
But I ponder
Why is it that I can be satisfied
In war as an end unto itself
And not for a life lived as they?

The light reflects in the smoke
For a moment illumined – aglow
But as the light shifts, and no wind blows
The smoke returns to darkness
As I return to myself

Poet’s Notes:  This poem details a moment of reverie for the eponymous guardsman of Qalaloom, a member of a military order upon a world or land (I imagined it in a sci-fi setting) where his caste are kept separate, distinct from the common men over whom they guard. As he observes the world from a metaphorical height, he is wistfully pondering how his life differs from those he guards. This wistfulness does not undermine his purpose, but he finds it strange to come to realize how different he is from others. For the time he is "as smoke / passed through a ray of light" but eventually "the smoke returns to darkness / as I return to myself". In other words, the guardsman concludes his thoughts and returns to whom he was. There is no crisis, only a moment of introspection. He remains what he is and always will be.

Editor’s Note:  What a mournful yet inspiring song!  I was at once reminded of George R. R. Martin's "Unsullied." 

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