after William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus


He caught my hand in my father’s garden—

closed flowers quiet in the earth,

dusk, the horizon blue

and yellow together

without mixing into green.

I wanted that,

our edges touching

without blending into one thing.

When Bassianus lifted my face to his,

kissed me, I felt the crocuses grow

curious. Later, the light

slipped out of the sky,

and though my father was gone

to war, the emperor buried,

I found I could lie awake without worry,

the familiar scent of earth

suddenly a new memory, a seed,

something upturned.


Betrothed: I

kept the word in my mouth, round

as an olive, and it ripened

with thought: green,

then purple. My dark nipples

strange coins, my body treasured

and untouched—

the quiet blue vines of my blood

growing warm with light,

imagining otherwise.


Like something removed

from my heart, the drums

announced my father’s arrival.

I saw the soldiers’ burden:

stretcher and stretcher of covered bodies,

my brothers wrapped in grey,

cocooned and flightless.

I rushed forward,

lifted my dress above my ankles.

And as I passed by

the tribunes and officials,

Saturninus turned his head.

I felt his eyes follow me,

let my skirts drop to the ground.

The road’s dust shapeshifted

at my feet—first one thing,

then another.

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