COLD and damp in darkness’ study, we stand

Armed with nothing but swords to cleave the air

Against foes who know where our blows will land.

To bleed for victory, what heart would dare?

All scores consumed by unfurling defeat:

By refusing-parry from one held dear,

Or when one pierces us to shamed retreat,

Heroic knees fail, to the earth draw near.

Drop our guard, and rob our grave of flowers,

Sheath in salt, the sword meant to gash death’s cheek,

And maim the giver of hallowed powers,

Thus, no euphoric life is left to seek.

But in mankind’s sempiternal making

All our labyrinthine jokes find meaning.

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