by Kirby Olson (September 2018)
Fire of Rome, Hubert Robert, 1771
“the problems of violence and inhumanity
that faced the world at the time of
Christ’s birth still exist in such
areas as Vietnam”
Spartanburg SC Herald-Journal, A1,
December 24, 1966
Children brought out for the fun
guests of Nero
paraded before senators
The Word is a dove
Children kneel before the dark Lord
The crowd licks its lips
The hooves of horses can be heard
A square of swords
collides with the Iceni
As centurions far north attack a village
the pillages increase
Snow falls (as carrion circle above)
New children are collected for the Pax Romana,
& marched to Rome.
Rome burned in 64 AD.
Nero committed suicide in 68 AD.
Two Men Talking, L.S. Lowry, 1941
After church, I met the former mayor on the bridge.
I asked him about trapezoids, zero,
and the relative sizes of infinity.
Beneath the green arch was the brown roiling river.
He talked of the smallest number greater than zero.
The mathematician in his wool cap, wool sweater,
retired, his head tilted back, the flattened rivets
around us holding the span together, the river
must go somewhere. It starts up in Stamford, and winds
to the sea, “a twisted access path,” to infinity.
Kirby Olson is a tenured English professor at SUNY-Delhi in the western Catskills. His books include a novel (Temping), about an English professor who starts a circus in Finland; a book of poems entitled Christmas at Rockefeller Center
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