The Warden
The warden chose to die alone
and spend his final days
not in the minds of his prisoners
but in the labyrinths of Borges

He traveled to Argentina
on an advance from his pension fund
his soul brittle, mouth flecked with spittle
body moribund

On a bus into the dessert
his mind it tensed with pleasure
as his fists remembered every blow
they’d dolled out in even measure

Checking into a small hotel room
he has a drink, then another drink
splashes his face with lukewarm water
from the basin underneath the sink

Then unpacks from his briefcase
his final days as planned
a Labyrinths, a Fictiones
three copies of The Book of Sand

Spent his life keeping men in prison
now the warden wants to unlock his mind
but on the brink of death, a taste of serenity
is all he’s likely to find

The Argentinean dessert
will both calm and wrack the soul
the mouth gets dry, a rasp asks why
as an oasis swallows you whole

The books on the bedside table
lay unopened and unread
the warden fixates on the ceiling
not even he’s sure if he’s alive or dead

He remembers everything, halls of mirrors
reflecting Borgesian dreams
but at the same time he remembers nothing
and nothing is not what it seems

Soon the taste of serenity is over
as he awakens to a violence more vast
it doesn’t seem like there will be a future
in this most gruesome distortion of past

The warden has become his own prisoner
not even he’s sure what such a thing might mean
be careful what you read, careful how you choose to die
Jorge Borges laughing through the bars of steam

The dessert has swallowed another
dehydration and madness – his mind
keeps himself locked up, beats himself blue
as both prison and body unwind

Threatens himself with solitary confinement
then looks around to find it’s already done
it’s too soon to die and it’s too hard to read
and the ordeal has hardly begun

Stabs a book with a knife on the table
as the pages all lunge for his throat
and if bookmarks bleed, his death is a weed
on the grave of all places remote

He tastes sand, he forgets, he remembers
the beatings he gave to each thief
his fists pound the walls, then pounds nothing at all
all time stops, no more air, no relief

Find him dead, still face down, at the table
the book opened to some unknown page
has sunlight brightened his nightmare
or has it followed him to the grave?
Piano and Voice: Jacob Wren
Recording: Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (hotel2tango)