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You who’ve been compared
to the greatest love poet,
were seen feeding swans
from a green canvas bag
on the jetty where the battle
of San Vicente was lost.

I wonder if you know
that drunks who rhyme badly
are trampling the flowers
we once called snowdrops.

You who’ve been remembered
as philosopher-king,
are heard in the chambers
of an ostracized nation
by cleaning women
whose husbands drowned
for the profit of sea bass.

Every night, they stroke your face
on coins that buy nothing
and tell their children
of the whispers
no senator can hear.

If you were thinking of coming back,
today would be a good day.

You’re strong enough now
to ignore the trampling. Twitches
of the dispossessed are nothing to fear.

The one or two aging cocks
who thought they could supplant you
are down, at last, to their final
grasping syllables.

Holding up a hand
against the sun, I see you,
as I always do,
through my fingers.

Today would be a very good day.


© Elaine Stirling, 2015