The Knight of St. John

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“They’re
evil, and we’re good,” the little Prince childishly suggested to
the group of men gathered around the extraordinary box with the
moving paintings.

By
the little Prince's countenance the knight couldn't tell whether
he was incredibly naïve, malevolently cynical, or just another
morally obtuse tyrant. The knight had seen many men like him before,
from Acre to here, infidel or Christian. They always awaken him
with their self-righteous din.

"Don’t
use the word ‘crusade’ again though, you might upset those you bomb,"
the Prince
is jocularly counseled by a soft looking smirking man. They all
laughed.

The
knight thought them pitiless; and wondered if they had ever seen
war, for they joked like squires, not considering those about to
die.

The
Hospitaler listened as he lay beneath the ground rotting, wishing
his bones could rejoin.

"Oh
how much longer must I stay?" the knight agonized in silence.

He
is stirred again with phantom passion, feeling like he should be
sweating even blood but
he's still dry as dust; the only animation he perceives is his decomposition.

He
tries to breath hard again, and had he blood would have broken through
the earth like a mountain.

He
shouts, but the desert is silent.

By
the inscrutable God, he is nothing but ashes. He smiles at
the irony.

God
seems merciless to imprison him in these lifeless limbs, harassed
by his own fierce soul; but the knight in his thousand years beneath
the ground came to know God a little better and knew He was full
of mercy…and justice.

“They
hate us because we’re free,” the little Prince almost whispered.

The
Hospitaler listened as the little Prince uses the word “free,” strangely,
as a reason for conquest… over and over, forming it on his lips
as if he were cursing.

The
knight didn’t understand, and he settled back into the earth in
his weariness, becoming
more a part of it than he was before; more anguish coming with
the new dust replacing his bones.

The
knight feared for the little Prince, Jerusalem seemed lost forever.
No man holds it long except by creed and blood, and these men seem
only to believe in… chattel, veiled in courtier's clever words.

The
infidel believes in more, the knight knew, and it will animate
his spirit ’til death becomes his alms.

The
knight wet his bones with a tear, his first in a thousand years,
and then he saw a rider, framed by the sun, leading a stallion all
saddled and
coming for him… it seemed.

Like
the man he once was, he arose and straddled the great horse.

Silently
beside the austere Saint John, they road upward towards Jerusalem,
and even beyond the Outremer… further than he ever rode before,
and for
him, the passionless whispers of all the little Princes finally
died away.

May
20, 2003

Neill
Raymond [send him mail] is
a husband, father, grandfather, former Vietnam Marine, Alaska State
Trooper, Highway Safety Specialist, finally, in my advanced years,
a college graduate, and above all, a believer in both faith and
works.


     

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