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His pagan body
1

When the emperor who condemned the best minds
burst his appendix, they buried
a child who was bullied

mercilessly. When the sea he used to plunder for shells
withdrew, they catalogued
the contents of a whale’s stomach –

it was knowledge not cosmetics they pursued
like the horizon he refused to see
beyond.

2

He went to his death the way they went to temple –
distracted, trying to remember
why am I here? His closest friend

removed to the provinces, his remote mistress
postponed the selection of tiles for the pool
so it was written she kept a bedside vigil.

3

For nothing. Desperate for patronage
from his successor, historians rephrased
praise into reservation:

His palace, once the apogee of balance ,
tumbled into an unfortunate instance of foreign influence;
his mistress’ face fell from radiance to paste.

She is last recorded walking the streets
he cleared to reduce travel (no
time) between the Senate and her bedroom.

Early January 2000, Legend Records Recording Studio, Auckland

 


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