Roman Discontent

In my youth I said, “Come, my love.
I will snatch you away from your father
to my glorious patria where you will strut
gazelle-like and your heart will gloat over your kin
and former friends sullenly trapped in this mean and derisory Αἴγυπτος,
beyond the sea.”

I brought her to this villa
but a short ride from the bustling forum.
Cool under the fans of maidservants and the eyes of stewards,
she frequented the booths of medici, spent my money on sartori.
She strutted, gloated. She bore a daughter. But she was not contented.
Not contented because discontent is everywhere, and everywhere the same,
because the sins of the fathers are everywhere heaped on the heads of the daughters,
and the sins of the daughters’ daughters savagely heaped on the heads of the mothers.
Savagely, I say, and seven-fold.

In middle age I said, “I will take you,
you and your daughter, back to Αίγυπτος;
I will live with you where parched palms clatter
and the desert winds rattle the eucalyptus by night,
spilling their seed on the ground to trip you as you walk;
where wolves howl and the sunset smolders blood-purple
as the flesh of Nubian women; where Pagan, Jew and Christian
worship vile Serapis, and the speech and customs of the people are prickly
as the porcupine.”

She said, “I shall neither depart your patria
nor depart the bitter wages of my daughter’s sins,
for my daughter is now of your patria, and she will wither
in my Αἴγυπτος, over the sea.”

Miamisburg, Ohio, 2012