Let’s treat everybody like they’re their own country.

I will be the nation of Robertstan, a monarchy.

My people will think their king is a philosopher

and will extort from them all their hard labor.

With other countries we shall maintain relations

as a delegate in the house of an United Nations.

We shall voice our thoughts as the concerns of a people

proud in character, sober in the law, and spiritual

in the convictions of fellowship and camaraderie.

And we shall recognize our neighbors, our boundary

north and west, south and east, for their peoples too

are like tapestries of intersecting history made new

every third generation, in revolution for some cause

dear to their heart, or in duty upholding their laws.

We shall deal with one another most diplomatically,

exchanging ambassadors, erecting our embassy,

imparting gifts of ancestral sentiment, earthenware

from my dynasty, from you a statue for my square.

We shall learn from each other as one studies a culture

admiring its milestones, its monuments that endure

great upheavals, achievements recorded in annals.

We shall entertain customs and open new channels,

trade in our mutual prosperity, swap beloved recipes,

perhaps even war shamefully, and spread disease.

Perhaps we may rise up out of arrogance or injury

not knowing ourselves or who we would like to be.

Perhaps we will tear ourselves apart in civil war

and fleeing destruction, overstep our shared border.

Would you offer shelter then, impoverished as we are,

or with diffidence or austerity review us from afar?

Would you posture and prevaricate your dismissal

maintaining both positions official and unofficial?

Or would you come to find your people and mine

our modus vivendi has circumscribed another line

around us both, that we are really half of each other

living under the same roof, without another?

R. Charboneau


Artwork: Rush Hour Traffic on the National Road – Rudolf von Alt (1850)

3 thoughts on “Modus Vivendi

  1. Long live King Robert! Long live Robertstan! I could almost hear the fanfare playing while I was reading these lines. I think you’d make a wonderful despot. A very eloquent and wise one, mind you.

    Liked by 1 person

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