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James Matthew WilsonJanuary 18, 2024

A fluttering of wings and sudden pain
Entered the guarded portals of his head
Beneath its sheet, and woke him once again
To find a ring of crows about his bed.
The sunlight shimmered on the distant sea.
The birds cawed, restless, as though one divine
Had sent their feathered darkness as a sign
That death approached and he must rise and flee.

His servants pulled him through the postern gate
To ride in shadows to a waiting ship,
As if provision could slip free of fate.
The litter jostled, sweat pearled on his lip,
And dust plumes, rising at the hastening feet,
Settled upon his robe and graying beard.
His valet’s eyes were wild with what they feared
And found the blazing sails of Antony’s fleet.

The carriage veered, then rattled to a halt.
Its drape swung open to reveal two men;
They stood with swords drawn, ready for assault.
He offered none, stretched forth his neck, and when
The blade was raised, told them, do what they would.
His head dropped with his two hands, in the dust;
Then, brought to Rome to answer Antony’s lust,
All three were nailed, where Cicero once had stood.

But this, historians note, was not the end.
Antony’s wife would bow before that head
And, with her hairpin, pierce its tongue to send
One final message to the noble dead:
Though they may speak with justice all their lives
And bear death bravely, chatting of the soul,
Power shall rule the world from pole to pole,
And nothing that defies its will survives.

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