Low Tide Shanty District, Harrison Carpenter
For three days, the city has been on fire.
Flames so hot the streets of gold are beginning to run,
bringing pillagers and housewives with their prayer-lined tongues
to their knees at abandoned intersections,
armed with buckets, the collection plates for
melting footprints of fallen deities
and long lost relatives.
The effects of tragedy on a person are often unbecoming.
I will have to pretend that I have always been this way,
as a desperate search for the gilded fossils of
Caesar’s sandals commences outside my window.
No one knows how
or has even attempted
to put these fires out
and a fourth day of heat
has charred the bottoms
of my already blistering feet.
Mausoleum is a word
that dresses up a tomb,
not in flowers,
but in syllables.
In a moment of weakness, or strength, I press the urn
of Augustus against my breast
and fasten the buttons of my coat.
I have stolen the emperor’s ashes, and am thus far
When the rain finally comes,
it shuffles through this place like regret.
I remove the urn from my coat
and watch wide-mouthed children
watch the sky, dancing innocently
to the rhythm of their own relief.
The fires have all gone out.
I have stopped pretending.
On the wet street, Augustus sits next to me, a glorified jar of mud.
I find the only building left whose walls are still erect,
dip my finger in his soot, and tell the story of our collapse:
“we have done this to ourselves”
and beneath it,
“this isn’t worth repeating”