Poetry

After Tacitus; The swallows have brought their young . . .


After Tacitus

And this is Livia’s bench, this warm stone
altar where she sat and watched Tiberius’ return
along the straight Flaminia.

This is a place that you might dedicate
to love-not-strong-enough,
that gave her up to force majeure.

She who became most pure of Roman matriarchs
learned patience here, wived to survival and necessity,
and let her gaze stretch out

across the Tiber where bleached bodies bloat—
its long green valley and beyond the aqueduct the heat haze
and the road’s red dust . . .

Yes, this is Livia’s bench, warm in the sun, though shadows
darken like spilt wine—and cherry blossom
shreds down heedlessly

spun loose through time.
 
 
The swallows have brought their young . . .

The swallows have brought their young to the brickyard.
The hottest day of the year so far and they sprinkle their chatter,
make graces across the unbroken sky in the shapes of their songs.

On the power lines, in their cabin-crew uniforms, they’re
provisioning for the long haul south through the airspace
of Africa, through the furnace winds and magnetic shifts . . .

The newest are gobby but grateful. They wait to be fed
or encouraged to try out the wings of the air and its steepness,
the depths and the sweeps of its high slopes and ramps.

They are restless now, on the brink of a passage that proves
them
true scions of tribes without teachers or futures or borders or gods.

Our house for a day, and we praise them—their attitude:
their force field of noise, their delight and their thrust.