The Honest Coward

“The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.” Umberto Eco

 

How is it that I’ve climbed so high?

where tundra has killed all

but the most resilient flowers

and the arbitrary treeline,

the border between those with fortitude

and those without,

swallows depth and color whole

to leave behind

a gray singularity.

 

The struggle against the wind

seemed so trite when I read about it

in a guidebook

and couldn’t feel its claws

rake my face

until my cheekbones exposed themselves

in lewd fashion

providing a perch

for those fireflies who flicker

in a constant state of vigil

over the unmarked graves

of those unfortunate travellers

who came before me,

who could not withstand,

who collapsed into their own ambitions

and now hum melancholy distractions

beneath the Earth—

all of which went unmentioned

in the guidebook.

 

I didn’t do this for you….

 

I did it because of you.

 

I did it

because I didn’t want to

ever be a symbol.

 

I wanted to be another honest coward,

just like anyone else,

but we all make sacrifices,

and break promises,

for for love’s infinite variations.

 

And, if I should twist an ankle,

succumb to a frost-bitten sleep,

and die covered in fireflies,

like better men before me,

it comforts me to know,

that it will be an honest death,

a death of my own,

not some hero’s death.

 

But, as I scale the temple steps,

the crumbling granite façade,

carved with ageless, nameless faces,

countless colorless eyes,

their heads bowed in sympathy,

the aurora borealis,

heralding my arrival above,

I wonder why I—

with my bent back

and faint heart—

was allowed entrance

at the top,

when so many,

with their spines vaingloriously straight,

feed the lights below.

 

They did it for them…

I did it because of us.

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