He noticed me in the line up and winked, smiling.
Then he moved on to greet the rest of the men.
But when we returned to our fires, his equerry came, panting:
“Come son, he wants to meet you, come now.”
I’m a farm boy and I know what’s what but I was shocked
by this directness. The man didn’t seem to care about everyone
watching us, even though my compatriots laughed and jeered:
“Keep your back to the wall boy, don’t let him get behind you.”
The equerry dismissed them with a contemptuous hand, pulling
at my sleeve with the other. I burned red, but I went with him anyway
and walked through the huge throng of men, lazing in the purple evening,
swilling new wine given to them as reward for a long campaign.
Finally, we reached the main tent, as big as a Roman villa and ringed
by braziers, guards’ faces bronzed and shining in the heat of a score
of torches. He was inside, tended by slaves. I found him reclining
on a divan, chewing at a leg of rabbit:
“What’s this?” he said as we entered. “Ah yes, my fair boy. Come sit with me, eat.”
I took the couch next to his and was given wine and food, but I watched him
even as I ate. His face was tanned from the march, his eyes keen, in wrinkled
pockets of dry skin, like agates in dust. And he watched me too, curious
and enjoying the novelty.
For me, used to hard bread and barley porridge, the scent
of rabbit and olives and good wine was almost too much,
I forgot myself and my nervousness and ate greedily,
rich juices streaking my hands and my face.
After a while, filled with wine and food – then carefully
washed by his slaves – I went to work on him, sweating.
He wanted soldier’s cock, so he had mine. It was awkward
and shuffling at first and he was not interested in returning
pleasure, all he wanted was to be turned over and fucked
but we managed it. And after I did him, like a sheep,
he seemed satisfied enough.
Later, I went back to my platoon and to my pallet and slept,
but restlessly, my head was still dizzy with wine, my hands
remembering the dry and sinewy touch of him.
During that long march home, he called me back
many times and I became used to the equerry’s near-nightly
nudging to leave my comrades for my commander’s bed.
(And, you should know, in exchange for these services,
I was given money and promised more).
One night my friend Lepidus, a handsome young legionnaire
from Osteia, about my own age, was invited to join us,
so we both fucked him, slaves watching while we took turns,
the stars and moon wheeling above in the night as if in a great, black cave.
But now, home again on my mother’s farm, I wonder what the point
of it all was. I fetch water for pigs, chop wood for her poor fire and yoke
the bull to the plough and it’s as hard as ever and thankless.
He’s dead, murdered they say, by his friends in the senate,
my hopes with him. The stupid fuck, who couldn’t see
what would happen if he called himself Caesar?
- FREE: 20 Poets anthology
- 91: NO THEME VIIISUBMIT to C Gaskin 90: MONSTERwith N Curnow, coming soon! 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith Fiona Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith Vladimir Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith Judith Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith Keri Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with Dan Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with Pam Brown 52.0: TOIL with Carol Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with Luke Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with Bonny Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with John Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with Tracy Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with Corey Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with Michael Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with Felicity Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with Jan Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with Derek Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with Kent MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with Ann Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with Gig Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with Duncan Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with Kent MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with Libby Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with Sarah Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with Sam Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with Astrid Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with Sean Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with Alan Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with Jill Jones
- Alex Creece Reviews Marion May Campbell’s third body
- Ivy Ireland Reviews Steve Armstrong
- Magan Magan Reviews deciBels 3
- Claire Albrecht Reviews Manisha Anjali’s Sugar Kane Woman
- Review Short: Simeon Kronenberg’s Distance
- Review Short: Judith Beveridge’s Sun Music: New and Selected Poems
- Melody Paloma Reviews Keri Glastonbury
- Submission to Cordite 91: NO THEME VIII
- Judith Bishop Reviews Phillip Hall’s Fume
- Bella Li on as Associate Publisher
- Alex Creece on as Production Editor
- Review Short: Diane Fahey’s November Journal and Carmen Leigh Keates’s Meteorites
- Review Short: Vahni Capildeo’s Seas and Trees and Jennifer Harrison’s Air Variations
- To Outlive a Home: Poetics of a Crumbling Domestic
- ‘The Rally Is Calling’: Dashiell Moore Interviews Lionel Fogarty
- Jackie Ryan: Teaser to Burger Force 3
- Dispatch from the Future Fish
- Introduction to Cordite 89: DOMESTIC
- 7 Portraits by Ali Gumillya Baker
- Selections from 3 Yhonnie Scarce Series
- Kathy Acker and The Viewing Room
- To Live There: on ‘Dispatch from the Future Fish’
- The Wild Workshop: The Ghost of a Brontëan Childhood in the Life of Dorothy Hewett
- Externalising the Symptom: Radicalised Youth and The Membrane
- On Deep Breaths and Friends Forever: Im/materiality and Mis/communication in Happy Angels Revisited
- Letter to Anne Carson: Work of Remembrance and Mourning
- Translated Extracts from Chantal Danjou