if they call you Richard the Lionhearted,
honcho of the Crusades and hero to Robin Hood;
or The Sun King, Louie, who fought three wars
and made France the toughest gang in Europe;
or maybe even The Magnanimous, like Alfonso
of Aragon, though you’d be among eight others,
along with seven The Conquerors, eleven The Goods,
and thirteen The Wises, suggesting subjects had
better things to do than think up kingly handles,
further shown in Serbia, where ten were dubbed
a worn and non-committal The Crowned.
For dark-siders, there’s The Impaler, Vlad III
of Wallachia, known to us as Dracula, (followed
diminutively by Basarab IV, The Little Impaler).
Then there’s The Madman, Scotland’s Donald II,
or, for those who want to specialize, Norway’s
Eric II, The Priest Hater, or Basil II of Byzantium,
The Bulgar Slayer. The Cruel’s comprehensive,
if you don’t mind bunking with four others. Ditto
with The Hammer and–ho hum–The Terrible.
But even if you have to share, it’s pretty good
to be king, unless as with Ethelred, subjects
turn wiseass and label you “The Unready,”
doomed to be the comic note in The Doomsday Book,
Or consider Pamplona’s Garcia IV, The Trembling,
or England’s James II, The Be-shitten. And how about
Normandy’s Robert II, The Curthose, or Magnus II,
The Barn-lock, or Byzantium’s Michael IV, The Minus-
a-Quarter (of what?), or Michael V, The Caulker,
Buck past those and, in the next roundup,
you might get branded The Accursed, The Gouty,
The Clubfoot, The Sluggard, The Stammerer,
The Impotent, The Who Fights Alone, The Careless,
The Elbow-High, The Dung-Named, The Bad,
(though that could be good), The Unavoidable,
The From Overseas, The Hare Foot, The Spider,
The Stuttering and Lame, or The Posthumous.
Still, it’s good to be king. You’re the law,
and the flings and snappy outfits can’t be beat,
but make me Portugal’s Sancho I, The Populator,
please not Ivalio of Bulgaria, The Cabbage.
WILLIAM TROWBRIDGE's seventh poetry collection, Vanishing Point, was published by Red Hen Press in April, 2017. His graphic chapbook, Oldguy: Superhero, came out from Red Hen in 2016. A full collection of the Oldguy poems will be published by Red Hen in 2019. He is a faculty mentor in the University of Nebraska Omaha Low-residency MFA in Writing Program and was Poet Laureate of Missouri from 2012 to 2016. For more information, see his website at williamtrowbridge.net.