To you biographers of Caesar, I am that murdered general, a Roman nose engraved on silver coin; an alabaster column in perfect Roman order, a sword, a plough, a prefect, a century of soldiers— a bumper crop in Tunis or in Spain. To you biographers of Peter, I am that Prince Apostle, a Hebrew man enshrined beside the Po; a traitor and evangelist fell prey to Roman order, a sword, an ear, a net for men, a century of soldiers— an empty cross along the Apis train. To you biographers of Arthur, I am that coming high-king, a Celtic myth in Celtic pride entwined; a pauper and a prince, once, before the Roman order, a sword, a stone, a chalice, a fief of noble soldiers— the Cup of Christ long kept by England's swain. To you historians of Athens, I am that naval power, the wisdom of my people long beheld; Master over Sparta before the Roman order, a sword, a fleet, the polis, a city-state of scholars— the light of pagan Europe in my blade. You genealogists of Adam, I am the father sinner, God's firstborn from the dirt of Eden's shade; a farmer and a workman, the sewer of disorder, a sword, a tree, the rocky earth, left to my warring children— their history still in my image made.I wrote this maybe 15 years ago while I was reading Leaves of Grass. The poem is really nothing like “To a Historian,” but I loved that title so much. I think that was the impetus.
An early work, and I love it. “To Statecraft Embalmed” starts with an image that might just as easily refer to a certain (current) political figure:
The only version of the full text I can find online isn’t formatted exactly how piece is presented in her Collected Works, a volume I seem to have misplaced precisely as I sat down to write this post.
The whole thing reads to me as uncanny prophesy, hard plumage and all.
The Summer 2020 issue of Rat’s Ass Review is now live. My poem, Widowing, is included. This is a strong issue with many great poems. I’m very happy to be included.