Who are the protestors hiking the hill?
Who bear the banners, and barricade streets?
Whence come these women and men of ill will?
Where are their weapons? Words painted on sheets
Are helpless to harm the stone walls. It is hard 5
To lay siege, to leave sitting a loathed, wicked lord
Who comes not, the coward, to court in the yard,
But cringes in camera, and cannot afford
To try parley, word-poor, though proudly oil-rich.
But siege it must be; so, silent as fate, 10
Afraid to try treason, with tents to pitch,
The weaponless war-band makes ready to wait.
The siege laid in summer gives way to the winter,
The stomachs and stores, like the hearts of their strength,
Turn empty. The signposts have started to splinter. 15
The tiny holes torn in the tents at great length
Grow larger. The cold wind, in larceny gifted,
Creeps in at the cracks; through protestors nestled
In sleep the wind steals. The stale warmth is lifted
From bundles of blankets. For who has wrestled 20
The wind? Who has won? It returns whence it came,
Moving back through the holes with its burden of heat.
This business of sieging is bitter; but blame
Not the wind. An ill ruler has sown this ill wheat.
It is almost too hot in the hall on the hill. 25
In its large windows there lingers no light,
But below in its boilers, belaying the chill,
The beam-blacking fuel burns on through the night.
The rich reek of oil, the black river-bane,
Refined into resinous plastics and sold, 30
Makes wealth to build walls, feed fires, grow grain,
All ways beyond counting to keep out the cold.
Alone with advisors, away from the wind,
Apart from the people, grown ice-eyed and pale,
He sits out the siege. His hair has not thinned, 35
But its new snow-touched tinge tells a wintry tale.
Who is that protestor, crossing the crowd?
Who is that weird man who wanders the yard
From a shabby old tent in the shape of a shroud
And loiters so long at the door, listening hard? 40
He shouts up no slogan; he shoulders no sign,
His rags are not printed with rioters’ rants.
Too jaded to join us, to jest or to dine,
Or at sunset, when sometimes we meet to sing chants
And make plans for the morrow, the man only stands 45
As if waiting. The winter is wild and unkind.
How long can he linger? His long-fingered hands,
Wind-mangled and bony, with more years behind
Than ahead, must be horribly frozen, I fear.
But none of us knows him. None of us dares 50
To go to the gate, or to get now too near;
Whether kind or curious, none of us cares.
The door does not open. No one deigns to come down
And answer us, whether with war or with words.
This business of sieging is bitter and brown 55
As this mud, sordid glory for men with no swords.
The first of the spring rains rattles the roof.
Most have gone home. The mornings are mild,
But the nights are still cold. The sun is aloof
As a king. The beaten wind cries like a child. 60
A lone figure lingers, along the far wall.
Ever wakeful and wary, he watches the door—
(High above, the heat is turned up in the hall.)
This winter has wrought, more wide than before,
A flaw in the door’s finish half-filled with dust. 65
A small pill is swallowed for pain in the side—
The hinges are ringed with a halo of rust—
The lord, once ice-tongued, once ice-eyed,
Feels ice in his feet. Warm socks are found.
More fuel for fires. More lamps are lit. 70
The diggers delve deeper underground.
The bundled blankets help a bit.
Where are the protestors, fanning the fire?
Where are the banners, bright against stone?
Where now the tyrant, defiant and dire? 75
Where is the house, and the hill, and the throne?
Turrets and towers, no different from tents,
Are wounded by winters. Though all the oil burns,
What homestead can hold a heat so immense
To withstand in a siege every season that turns? 80
The business of sieging is bitter but sure.
The might of mankind is not measured in swords,
But in innermost warmth, and the will to endure—
This trait any trial or trouble affords…
…for a time. But who taps at the door 85
When friend and foe have fled and gone?
It is only the wind, and nothing more—
But who has wrestled the wind and won?