by Jan Iwaszkiewicz
The Bitch of Rome is unimpressed.
Expressing her mortality
she lifts and points her breast...
We sink the corner posts first, as each defines a neighbour.
It is here where the bottom six inches are the most important.
It is here where the strength is muscled into the fence.
The heart of a fence lies in its foot.
I tamp until the bar thrums with possession.
We snug the stays and tighten the wires,
each barbed note tensioned into voice.
The division sings a warning to the wind.
A fence cannot hold back fighting.
The sky aches blue and the sun eats green;
the earth coughs dust as rich as blood.
Alongside the rocks, our bones and eagles hang,
arms and wings wound in the wire.
I met a soldier in an ancient land.
who said: —“Back home, when I was young
I used to ride upon a white horse.
Cowboy or Indian, I rode as saviour.
The sun and wind had soft, sweet hands
and every day was filled with glory-come-to-visit.
I had a warbonnet white as ice cream
and milk and honey seeped into my bones.
But now, in the nights of this savage land.
I am caught in a tale that will not end.
My barracks are made from playing cards.
Suits of wanted faces deck the walls.
The broken pieces of my brothers lie scattered
around this crossroad in the rocks and sand.
My eyes are wracked by skeins of pale skin.
Completely wasted, I stand watch in bitter thyme.
The rubble drizzles dust and men.
I try to breathe and hold myself tall
but all I hear is the sound of nails on wood
and hatred hammers down my hands and feet.”