Plague in an Ancient City

                    In the harsh days when the Dogstar rages
                    you remain inviolate[.]

To come by night, raging as a Fury,

                    plague a game in which we profane sacred
                    names, oracles tracing its origins
                    twine with love-stained grains of sand mute motes of
                    another buried empire raised up like
                    a cup of libations to a Muse or
                    a traitor’s noose strung high by the soft and
                    sighing music of the lyre, a poet’s
                    wit’s biting lyrics of kisses laying
                    on our thighs conspiracies of illness
                    to interrupt the conversation of

your body with mine, a shattering of

                    prayers against the arched backs of watchtowers
                    enrage and ensnare gatekeepers to break
                    barriers, hirsute forearms with leather
                    bands girding thick wrists usher in a breath’s
                    gushing of infidel tongues chanting oaths
                    we do not understand yet somehow know
                    are ones invoked against us, christians come
                    to fell our touch’s temple by filling
                    its phalanx of flesh with an unwanted
                    wealth of jewelled infections, their gold-flecked

invectives wear us out, condemning as

                    heresy a love whose name we cannot
                    pronounce, their flooded hordes unsheathing swords
                    foreign invaders gorged on the spoils of
                    ceaseless wars plunge into us over and
                    over before killing off this pagan
                    passion of ours with words, blurred spittle of
                    loaded phrases breaking waves of caged heat
                    escaping those lamps of eyes by whose light
                    we rush to ready our oars, to take flight
                    through cool water nibbling silently our

kingdom’s crumbling shores, to get them out or

                    away from their scourge before it torches
                    those scrolls of ours whose unrolled tongues record
                    a plundered library of occulted
                    liberties we have lived in secret and
                    lavished without any apology,
                    reading those oaken annals garlanding
                    the aching rafters of memory our
                    crown-heavy heads bang against as they hang
                    around the gaping roses of young men
                    abundant with budding talent, youthful

pursuits whose details even now we still

                    envy with a spate of spite, but whether
                    their chronicles are truthful yet remains
                    questionable, and irrelevant, as
                    we row past the enemy, slaving in
                    the gallantry of our sinking galley
                    through plague in an ancient city, toward
                    the last bridge between destiny and this
                    reality, which tomorrow they will
                    have burned, disease wasting its way into
                    ashes drowning in tears, turning to ink

lost legends erasing from the gilded

                    fore-edges of our hagiographies
                    those moments making martyrs of converts,
                    of blood-and-bone persons flawed marbles of
                    perverts, veins cracking the vanity of
                    statues blind iconoclasts revel in
                    smashing, relegating to myth all that
                    we once had—stilling with rapacious pangs
                    of wolf-jawed religion this pulse which can
                    only be thawed by the reverent touch
                    of well-read palms belonging to someone

else unwanted, at once flawed and brilliant.

1Horace, “[Book] III, [Ode] 13”, [Stanza 3, Lines 9–10], in The Odes and Epodes of Horace: A Modern English Verse Translation by Joseph P. Clancy, published at Chicago by The University of Chicago Press in 1960; page 128.