not brand new, it’s a few months old—I wrote it for a contest, it did not place. The contest was sponsored by an art museum, you had to write about one of five or six pieces in the museum’s collection. I picked a Roman sarcophagus:
and wrote this poem, Ultimare (which means, the last scene)
Arrows made of hard wood
and iron jar my shield.
The archer grins with hate.
Five shadows off, she’s a head taller than I
and her hair is cropped short, like our soldiers, like mine.
She’s a different species from the ladies of our fine houses. And our low houses.
This morning I asked Venus if I’d survive the battle.
Answer: a red flame shot straight up from the woods.
Days are long here, no sea air or comfortable chairs.
The Amazonian campaign is sinister, black tidings before we left the fortress walls. What box will they make for me, where will it lie?
My rival fires a line of arrows.
Without our canis corso we could even lose to women, shameful. This soaking field is damper than a bathhouse. On both sides, sinking horses breathe hard.
Without speaking, my first lieutenant kills the thickest of them, lancing his sword through her waist.
Her two-headed ax reflects his helmet as it drops, smacking the field.
Female voices call out, wrathful trills.
Finally my enemy’s distracted, her queen has fallen.
I rush and strike through her armor, she falls on her single breast, clawing the soil twice.
Blood blooms from her mouth, not grinning anymore but still it hates.
I’ll look just like that in an hour or so, when an arrow catches my neck, draws a red flame.
Tonight, longer arrows hunt my ghost.