sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2014-07-19 09:14 pm

What's left but ash and burnt bone?

This poem was originally published in The Cascadia Subduction Zone 3.3 (July 2013). It was written over the last night of April into May 2013; I still associate it with my dream of Adresteia. It's free to read online like the rest of the issue, but I am reprinting it here for reasons.

Cato the Elder is also known as Cato the Censor (Censorius) after the political office in which capacity he distinguished himself as a champion of traditional Roman morals and an adversary of anything that looked like a new idea or a foreign influence or both. His farming handbook De Agri Cultura is the oldest surviving complete work of Latin prose: it is one of our best sources on Roman agriculture of the second century BCE and a chilling perspective on the handling of slaves. You may know him by his rallying cry for the Third Punic War, Carthago delenda est.


Cato, thinking of you tastes of salt
I know was never ground in Carthage earth
like tears into slaves' eyes, ash on grieving faces,
the bricks of burnt walls into sun-sprawled backs.
I cannot touch olives, small-flowered as Etruscan jewelry,
without hearing the sword sharpening in the sickle,
the war whetting itself on its appetite.
Your voice repeating across a sea that was never ours
the one word I cannot rub away
as easily as a city's dust from my palms,
my mouth sea-breeze bitter with knowing
none of the names of children we have burned.

[identity profile] 2014-07-20 02:22 am (UTC)(link)
I find myself saying this of your poems a lot, but that? That is one hell of a poem.

[identity profile] 2014-07-20 02:53 am (UTC)(link)
This is stunning. I'm glad to see it again.

May Adresteia's steed rest in the stable tonight. May Aphrodite's daughter spend a quiet evening at home. May Ares' daughter not stir from her fireside.

Tonight I heard a priest, an eighty-something Clare man whom I respect and admire but whom I would never ask why my gay uncle shouldn't be able to have a civil marriage if he finds the right man, nor if my friend who married the man she thought reasonable and appropriate when she was very young should have an easy annulment should she come to wish for one, turn a passage that's often used for fire and brimstone into a meditation on the need for forgiveness. I'd expected the worst, and instead it was something at least two of us there needed to hear.

[identity profile] 2014-07-20 04:13 am (UTC)(link)
A stunning lovely poem.

[identity profile] 2014-07-20 05:35 am (UTC)(link)
Stunning. Absolutely.


[identity profile] 2014-07-20 12:13 pm (UTC)(link)
my mouth sea-breeze bitter with knowing
none of the names of children we have burned.

Thank you.