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  • By Craig Dobson

Late Imperial Woes

I anxiously wait by the phone,

My favourite villa’s up in smoke,

Barbarians are nearing Rome.

I’m rich in titles, yet I’m broke.

Great gangs of surly dispossessed

Now throng the streets of every town.

The Emperor’s under house arrest,

The Internet keeps going down.

While treason trials are underway,

Inflation’s soaring through the roof.

The army’s in the tycoons’ pay—

The hangman needs less and less proof.

The churches have been wholly stripped,

The ancient temple doors all barred.

The final Vestal Virgin whipped

For being deflowered by the Guard.

Now’s a golden age for plunder,

Dramatic shifts for rich and poor.

For family fortunes to blunder

To unfortunate metaphor.

The sun is already setting

On the ruins in which we rest,

On all that we are regretting

As we hurry on to the west.

We’ll catch the last departing train,

Packed full of desperate refugees.

Then follow the very last plane’s

contrail towards the endless seas.

We’ll haunt the empty promenade

Where thrived a holiday resort.

Search among the empty dockyard

And the shipless ghost of a port.

Shocked by the cultural wreckage,

And with nowhere else left to run,

Some Stoic of ancient courage

Will honour what ought to be done.

The rest of us, shamed, will gather

Like flotsam exposed on the shore.

Pray Neptune or God our Father

To save us from a vengeful Thor.

With a ruined world behind us,

We’ll face the grey, forbidding waves.

Wait for the Furies to find us

And seal us in our nameless graves.

Craig Dobson has had poems published The North, The Rialto, The London Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, Magma, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Southword, The Poetry Daily Website and Agenda. He has work forthcoming in THINK, Poetry Salzburg Review and The Dark Horse. He lives and works in the UK.

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