Romulus (2 of 3)
From something’s belly sprung a prodigy.
Two heads and four legs.
Infants tell nothing, they are pure seed: but these!
As if men of deeds were mirrored in the babes,
as if mirrors turned on deeds to come
cast backward in unnatural eyes
of unnatural thick-thewed infants.
A vine has sprouted.
“The river flowed over into which we were cast.
Time’s torrent held us and did not devour.
Washed up at the fig tree,
we lay on our backs, and our infant sexes pointed nowhere in the breeze.
A lupa, common whore, bowed over us,
shaded us with her hair,
dangled her teats in our faces.
Birds left us food.”
In this wise (says the scholiast)
the earth acquires its king.
We mark his coming and the division of time:
first the eternity of kingless earth, fallow in its sun,
then the commencement of war and aqueducts.
Remus troubles us. Two-headed birth
we understand, but the prodigy in later life,
after the king splits himself and slays himself,
The stories branch without confluence and comfort not.
How many eagles over the Palatine Hill?
And if they were vultures?
And if an aberrant shovel, and no one’s intention,
cracked Remus in the head?
The outlines, brilliant without depth, cannot be judged,
yet each may believe in his heart that the darker half,
the slain shadow, would have been the better king.
The city that wasn’t! Specter in the alley,
lantern’s inversion! Pavor nocturnus! Remus!
Lemurs! Larvae! Rise in dread at midnight,
cast bean-pods over your shoulder
HAEC EGO MITTO
HIS (inquit) REDIMO MEQVE MEOSQVE FABIS