Barbarus in Roma
As captive taken to Eternal Rome,
As tall and ruddy slave amongst the free
And short and dark, he thirsted fearfully
For German beer and all the joys of home.
He saw no glory in the hippodrome
Nor on the sand where skilled slaves fought to see
Who would endure in vile utility
Under the unconcern of Heaven’s dome.
Civilization was, to him, disease–
Though the diseased were sure that they were fine
And gloried in their vain civilities.
In his lashed heart, he failed to fall in line.
In his fierce spirit, he was hard to please.
He was converted, finally, by wine.
(Second Place, Napa Town and Country Fair, 2017.)
You hardly know you’re being made a slave.
Your servitude they call “community.”
Their mirth’s about as cheerful as the grave—
But with false smiles they get you to agree
To just a petty chore. You cannot see
The harm in saying yes – and then you’re caught.
Degree by imperceptible degree,
You’ve moved to where a chaining spell is wrought.
You’ve sold yourself – and can’t tell who has bought.
Your strength they siphon off with high delight.
You try to fight, but struggle is for naught.
They’ve built a cage for you – and built it right.
They feed you laughter and absurd denials.
When silence falls, you see those same false smiles.
Against his servile status, he rebelled.
His fellow gladiators joined the show.
They knew the Roman weapons that they held
Better than Romans did – and, in the know,
They forged ahead, barbaric souls aglow
With a vast, half-remembered liberty.
The victory they sought did not come slow.
Their fame spread – or their notoriety.
What a messiah Spartacus would be!
The young Kirk Douglas truly risked his all
So that all slaves could be forever free.
Then Crassus came and foully made him fall!
(Crassus was acted by Olivier.)
You don’t believe it? What a thing to say!
The gods come in disguise, as well we know.
So maybe Jesus was a mighty god.
Maybe eventually he’ll bring them low,
His foes, and make his judges reck his rod.
To this as possibility we nod.
Helios knows that it would be a scene
Worth watching: golden-visaged, iron-shod
Angels advancing as vain courts convene!
What’s that you say? This isn’t what you mean
At all? No unexpected retribution
Visited on officialdom unclean?
Vengeance is not your deity’s solution?
Your revelation brings no satisfaction.
We like our slave shows filled with bloody action.