Lesbia, later

Should I, first, have told you who Lesbia is?
A fierce Roman boy wrote her lovesongs; and yes,
Her true name was Clodia. We do not know
If she ever loved him, but branded a whore
In the longest oration of Cicero
Her answer was silence.  For no more was heard,
No rings swelled dark water.  She just disappeared.

So history loses us.  No one dissolves
In a scornful phrase.  Herbal lotions, black salves,
Would drag out her disease.  She may have lived, tough,
With smooth skin; an old husband; forced to retire
To dank autumn villas where she drank too much
Then crunched down the gravel walks, carelessly dressed,
As mist teased her hair from dyed curls, uncaressed.

No, you still see Claudia, swiftly, from far,
Her new husband bought her the fast discreet car.
Her parties, though seasonal, are truly grand.
Sheafed lilies - her favourites - blaze white by her door.
She offers you, briefly, her slim unmarked hand.
The boy died, washed aside, her written-out past.
What thoughts skate her mind’s pool?  “My lilies should last.”

Alison Brackenbury

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