1. How to imagine the sharp smells she breathed
salt spray, and ox dung, pine waft from the hills,
the bitter richness of the leaves men wreathed
about her head, the coarse crumbed bread that fills
her stomach, sweet and flower-scented wine
she waters, dips the bread in. Then she stands
and sings, not for her supper. ‘She’s so fine,
the girl that I don’t have’. And in her hands
she twists our minds a little, gives us space
to love and be ourselves and proudly feel.
Years, priests and rats left such a tiny trace
of all she sang, and yet forever we’ll
echo her every time we stand and stare
at some girl that we love, who doesn’t care.
2.Some slave is dusting round him as he stares
at parchment scraps. He feels that he’s unmanned
by love and art. No proper Roman cares
about such things. When Caesar takes his hand
asks for his vote, he’ll think of her he loves,
wonder if Caesar’s fucked her, think of how
his arse would look in bed. Annoyed he shoves
such thoughts aside; but slowly beating now
come stormdrums, sickness. ‘He is like a god
who sits by you’ – the woman in his brain
speaks through him, pulls him down the paths she trod.
He’ll let her do it to him once again
possess him, but add bitterness and scorn
to make that bitch wish she was never born
How dare I speak to them? The thinnest dregs
of what they made? And his contempt and rage
harsh as her pity for my limping legs,
and broken meter. We’re trapped in a cage
each of us, and the cage bars are the years
that tick by, sever us. We find a way
to hear and speak. Her words mixed with his fears
and fury, gave him something new to say
that was not her. In my dishonest time
I try to hear them both and write them true.
The world decays and rusts to night, and I’m
blowing at flames, for that’s what poets do.
If I must face them, bow then show the fine
Last embers of their work flickering in mine.