In the Land of Emperors : poetry

by Maria Terrone

He’s alive, but halved, on a plank–

head, torso and muscled arms

wheeling down the train platform

to the top of the stairs,

and I stop in my tracks

midway through some rumination

that’s instantly replaced by one

about humans made in God’s own image.

I imagine the workbench abandoned

in the middle of the job,

some more cursed than others,

forced to eat dust,

denied the chance to run.

I reverse my steps,

read a billboard, wait till it’s safe: he’s gone.

Still, my legs quiver

on the same steep flight of steel steps

he bumped or slid or rode down

a moment ago, transporting himself

to the next plane, the broken world–

transforming himself.

In marble halls, I’ve admired

 the busts of emperors, larger than life

 with their smashed noses and missing limbs.

I know a black king

glides by now on ball bearings,

past sidewalk crowds that part in two.

Originally appeared in Dogwood Volume 5: 2005

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