Ben-Hur, Liberated

by Ken Harnisch

I am no longer slave to love
Or its prisoner, chained below decks
And rowing to the drumbeat of an overseer
Whose intent is never clear
Or his battle plan revealed until
The smoke rises and assaults the
Blind with the sense that at the end of
Things he will drown or be burned
No matter how strong or how bravely
He charges into the conflagration.
Ah, but such a jaded view is not shared
Where the morning sun washes the decks
With its sweetest light, or the deep blue sea
Becalms even the most seasoned sailor
Into belief he is the navigator of his own
Ship, and ever the captain of his own destiny
Such fools never don the body armor
When calling out the charge
And usually, die first and bloodiest
In the battle they were never meant to win
Captains never come below decks to ask
The rowers their advice; we are a pitiable lot
Whose task is but to steer the ship and keep
It from the rocks. The battles, alas, we are
Never asked to strategize, nor the consequences
Ever managed to be brought up in quiet conversation
With those who keep us chained. We are old men
Who have lost and are grizzled and scarred
From the fights, but kept around and fed
Scrapple and other entrails while Don Juan  
The Heartsick presses blissfully to this, his own demise
Becoming, inalterably, the next slave at the oar
I once claimed as a throne


Posted on 02/10/2007
Copyright © 2021 Ken Harnisch

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 02/10/07 at 11:39 PM

I keep coming back to this one. I became so enthralled with the ship/captain/sailor metaphor that I almost lost sight of the first line, which I believe is the key here?? I do not feel a female presence here - perhaps I am not supposed to.. :) Perhaps this is more about the aging lover replaced by the younger, who will eventually end up rowing your oar. I'm not sure if the "overseer" is the controller of a relationship for you or more just a symbol of you not being in control any longer. As you can see, I am intrigued. I do like this poem!!!

Posted by Kate Demeree on 04/15/07 at 02:16 PM

Wow... There are so many images here that strike a cord in my heart I don't know where to start. I am sorry I missed this one when you posted it, and glad I found it now. Funny isn't it how the ships and the water call to a person? I often wondered who was the Captain of my ship..... *soft smile*

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