Author’s note: “Fifteen Answers of the King to His Questioners” is a translation of an anonymous Serbia folk poem, interspersed with language from President Obama’s public speeches on surveillance.
Yes I tasted my wife taste       the go-devil
they lowered       from heaven & I saw
the white handkerchief       they hung down
from heaven to earth       & I surveillance’d
three barrels: one liquor       one oil, one milk
& heard the first whisper       I boil to black
& heard the black whisper       I boil to milk
& heard the last whisper       the milk boils all
by itself  yes I watched       the old warlander
she was lording me       over her colt & a black
grouse was present       he was tearing out
grass by the roots       & weaving this grass
in his fetlocks       this young horse was neighing
Yes I tasted my wife taste       the liquored
lie down on her shit heap       taste the curs
come to sniff       at the womb in stockades
in the courtyards       I tasted the catholics
they begged       to kneel down for a century
& I saw the horse        they prophesied I’d leave
my wife for: she had four heads       & each one
was grazing on clover       but only one leg
to sustain her yes I tasted       my wife taste
a worry rock no      a warchest of pearls no
a merit badge       & I saw the pigtail of smoke
that shook them       from earth to heaven
& I saw the chow line       & the rich in the chow line
& deserters were       handing out paychecks
demerits, bonuses       false teeth or flour
Tell me where       is my bonus said the desert
& the sacks       were picked clean yes I tasted
my wife taste       these stones with beards
like the devil’s       they rolled down from heaven
& goose-stepped       when they tasted the earth
& three women I loved       from my youth I saw
weaving daisychains       & smearing each other’s
wrists, each other’s chests       with raw honey
& crowning themselves       with their chains
& pressing to steady their prayer       their wrists
to the earth        & I saw many henchmen
with horseshoes for eyes       with god’s veins
in their barrels       with shoes filled with salt      
& this is the devil’s workforce I said       & I put them to work