Our Arbitrary Kingdom

A poetic reflection upon West Point’s 11th straight defeat in the Army-Navy Classic.


Sometimes the Sadness is Random.
Sometimes it comes despite the virtue of our behavior and intentions.
Sometimes the good guys lose the fight.
The winds of our stochastic weather model don’t seem to care.

Some folks get more than their share of grief in this life.
They wake up each morning struggling against their instinct to “Stay down!”
Convinced it will change this time—once more unto the breech—you’ll see, dear friend,
But never surprised when the unlikely Sadness returns yet again.

Sometimes the hero’s a complete failure, little boy.
Despite the stories you’ve read or watched on the Wonderful World of Disney.
Sometimes the Valiant prince rides off to Reno, Nevada,
Persuaded by addictions he blows the rent money and wakes in his shorts, alone.

Some nights the ice caps melt even though you carried the recycling to the curb.
A polar bear slides from his icy bunk into the shimmering, moonlit waters.
He holds his breath for seven minutes, before he’s caught in a broad net
And hauled into a shipping container bound for San Diego Zoo.

The narrative you construct hoping it will all make sense is not to blame.
The dissonance doesn’t care—there is no karmic balance in a single generation.
Best to recede into stillness and take a pinhole perspective from the mushroom.
Detached, you’ll shrink your anxieties and laugh at our arbitrary kingdom.


Image credit: Brent Dougherty/Twitter
[USMA (Army) QB Trent Steelman being consoled by his coaches after suffering a 17-13 loss to the USNA (Navy) in the Army–Navy Classic—Army’s 11th straight loss to Navy in this annual match-up.]

About John Oliver

John Oliver is a graduate of West Point and Yale, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, and a graduate of the US Army’s Airborne and Ranger schools. He lives in Richmond, Virginia, where he is a small business owner and occasionally, a writer.

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