Zbigniew by Justin Lowe


Zbigniew

I chose this life
it wasn’t thrust upon me
there have been enough conscript poets
it is what the poor of spirit
would call ‘a luxury’
all that others accrue I have jettisoned
to slow my sinking into the earth
what the impish of heart
would call ‘flying’
I have honed my life
like I have honed my art
down to a fine point
come too close and I will peck you
like a songbird
it is what the dilettante would call
‘a poetic temperament’
they would tell you that my heart
is all sinew, no muscle
like the hemp that dragged broken Hector
around the stern walls



The Forest


Tacitus gazes at the spluttering candle
and then over at the limp arms of parchment
dangling from the lectern


Tacitus can make shadows dance in the Teutoberg
but he cannot make shapes on the parchment
words vanish like the legions at the first cry of the curlew


Tacitus frowns at his slave and his slave splutters like the candle
holds the quill poised at the ready
he is like his master’s failure carved in stone


Tacitus wonders whether he should send the man away
he would like to spare himself this humiliation
but the slave is a learned man who condescends rather than obeys


Tacitus likes this about the man
this and his tendency toward candid appraisal
of his master’s account of distant events


he looks upon misfortune
as the domain of others
a foreign country


like the past


but he feels compelled to ask himself
while he awaits his master’s first word
on the matter

what exactly are the Romans’ plans for this shadow world
and how vast do they imagine this world to be
because it seems that every time they venture out into it


that world grows like a man’s mind
when he turns back to his maps and scrolls
after a long day in the fields

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