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Discourse 24.1 (2002) 111-112

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no place / not rome (three excerpts from section 2 of from the warring factions )

Ammiel Alcalay

in this our day of darkness see what beyond the scattered leaves the
Sybil said no time to gape at games the place that once was across
the waters the shores that lie beyond the blurry lines going away
like things spent to live in the very glint of what little might have
been paradise such blood and dreams there don't seem to be any
civilians face about face I don't care about the imperial mouthpiece
doesn't need any face to fight his war I don't read about that stuff
in the line of duty in the line of destiny without losing control to
speculate about what may or may not be included in a plan that
might or might not be implemented is inappropriate in this secret
room drawing now if to sympathize or if to despise such blood and
dreams this empire of dreams dreaming of empire and blazing fields
in the fearful hearts of such good people heaping much more on their
plates than they can eat these are the innocents over and over again
they claim they have no one to talk to—'rested and resolute,' 'calm and
resigned,' 'determined and vigilant,' 'steady and strong' a life which does
not need war would go up used like destiny to always learn the passion
for the justice things not sufficiently heroic buildings taken out on the way
to work collapsing in this bitter inheritance of caliber and alchemy
this heaving breast of sleep and horn and ivory
the capital the capital this is the Appian way speed up the process
by showing your "empress" this page don't be too stubborn to ever
show a sign make like Nero in QUO VADIS shorts eight fiery patterns
blazing in color poor toga clad Nero never knew the smart comfort of
these full-cut rayon boxers he don't know what he missed the small
voice of Cleopatra whispering to Liz across the centuries: "You really
can rule the world. Get a barge! Roll yourself up into a magic carpet and
have it sent to" SO many fascinating possibilities parallels in life of the [End Page 111]
two girls spooky both queens accused of stealing husband from nice wife:
Liz replies—What am I supposed to do, ask him to go back? Cleo would
have done the same in Cinemascope the modern miracle you can see without
glasses without sympathy without tyranny without oil the orgies the triumphs
the palaces the costumes the pomp sails on ship of state as you blaze your
way through the gulf the brush-grass and the sand the trench and the cities
of salt liken my weeping eye to a casting of the stones to a bewildering
darkness on fire with hunger the tent marks worn away and left to the wild
uncovered like the script of faded spools disintegrating reels wound in
spirals of dust as forms begin to reappear at the limits of weariness
traveling on a pillow of thick oil or black pitch before the wheel of
war turns down the departing riders like the flat back of a shield
no one dares cross when the chameleon struck by heat begins to reel and
twist its head the camels like boats floating down the desert of the Tigris
the gold standards draped in purple gleam already it seems I see the regal
brothers standing before the people of Rome the earth has opened a path
for you where ever there are living things you are also there what was
only a world you have made a city year by year the green earth comes up
from below meadows and groves folded closely together the gift not now
water from a well but the tablet itself the verse graven on imperishable gold
caught in the tangle these are the names that extend the memory of sorrow
a bush a bird a fish...


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pp. 111-112
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