- Extinction, Laserpicium
Quam magnus numerus Libyssae harenae lasarpiciferis iacet Cyrenis—Catullus 7
Consider silphium, extinguished flower,Kin to the wild carrot, Queen Anne’s lace,Fennel and dill, and rooted now no placeOn earth, that once was worth an empress’ dower,A Caesar’s ransom. Silphium was powerStored in Rome’s coffers, stamped upon the faceOf silver tetradrachms, a thing to baseThe wealth of nations on. Now past its hour,Stamped out, its numbers harvested to zero,What properties, what cures were in an ounceAre lost to us—mere footnote to the pleasureOut of a poem—“kisses without measure.”The last stalk ever found, Pliny recounts,Presented as a rarity to Nero. [End Page 73]
a. e. stallings is an American poet who lives in Greece. Recent books include the poetry collection Like, from Farrar Straus Giroux; a verse translation of Hesiod’s Works and Days, from Penguin Classics; and a translation of the Homeric mock-epic, The Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice, from Paul Dry Books. A selected poems is forthcoming from FSG.