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The King Wore Two Shirts

Charles Hughes

Of all those facts, this one’s the one I ponder.
What made me think of it this time was watching
A White Sox hitter spin away too slowly,
Get drilled in his right thigh by a hard slider,
And take his base as if he’d walked—not rubbing
The spot, not wincing, not changing expression
In any way that might be seen as weakness
(Per my TV, at least). Stupid bravado?
That’s when King Charles loomed up. The First. Of England.

Our blind professor, way back when, could only
Rely on words tossed out to a dark classroom
Devoid of answering eyes. Death meant a marriage.
The day arrived, a January morning.
By evening, King and people would be severed
As head from body. So this King conceived it.
He’d stuck to his convictions, though defeated
In the long war, held prisoner, judged a tyrant,
A traitor, and a murderer. It was freezing—
Hence the two shirts. He didn’t want to shiver,
To seem afraid to die. Stupid bravado?
He said he hoped to be espoused to Jesus.
A cough, not loud. Then off slipped the dark glasses,
Which tapped the air to introduce a coda.
You’ll each do work of multiple kinds. The question
Haunts every task: whether it’s done for glory
Or other gain or love. When it’s that last kind,
You’ll do it even if it comes to nothing.

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