The Last of Diocletian

Having ruled bloodlessly
for twenty years
the emperor retired
Having survived his rule
the emperor became a farmer
Having successfully
he farmed cabbages They were
beautiful cabbages
They grew in martial rows
When the empire
spiraled into war
the emperor barely noticed
Having spiraled into war
the people asked him
to return
To be emperor again
They were killing each other
They kept
killing each other If you could see
these beautiful cabbages
he told them
you would never ask this of me
If you could see
these purple cabbages
you would not ask me
to water them
with your storms
of insatiable greed
So said the emperor
who having ruled well
retired to
not exactly uselessness
Retired to awareness
of the chaos that always
follows the good days—
the destruction
of those he had loved
the wreckage of the state
Having ruled well
he died eventually
by his own hand
The bloodshed
Then a brief peace
Then war again
Back and forth it went Centuries
of dead emperors
vanishing in the distance
Think of those rows
of perfect cabbages