Bradley T. Van Deusen

Bradley T. Van Deusen

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Page 30


Then the Legions turned from Britain
On the long white road to Caul
From the purple patterned heather
Bound tight against the Wall.
The Little Painted Peoples
Ran shadows through the grass
As they clawed aside the branches
To watch our Eagles pass.
The gallant, vanquished Eagles
With their faces turned toward home,
The proud and polished Eagles
That led the shields from Rome.
The blazing day flung glory
From each rank of tilted spears
And the Cohorts sang of Roma
As their thoughts rolled back the years.
The salt sweat burned the callous
Where the wet straps tugged and tore
And each shift of shield and armour
But seemed to cut the more.
This land was Rome's and Romans held it
Though the black seas bit the beach,
And wing-helmed through ice and snow whorls
Came those of alien speech.
Huge men and brave in combat
Yellow-haired and raiders all;
But they dropped sail once near Vectis
And we pinned them near the Wall.
Good blades and mighty axemen
And they met us knee to knee,
But our sullen, dark browed Legion
Turned and flung them back to sea.
Yes, they tossed their sails and left us
Bruised and battered, bloody, numb
Yes, we whipped them, whipped them, whipped them
But they never ceased to come!
They'll come again and take this
All this bleakly lovely shore;
The Picts can never stop them
And the Eagles soar no more.
For the Legions turn from Britain
And their half-completed task -
Rome's will - there is no question
That a soldier dares to ask,
Dares to ask or stops to wonder -
There is no Law but Rome!
But the land my comrades died in
The Legions called it - home.

Page 31


God knows it has been centuries
Since I last heard
The keen, ecstatic trumpet of your voice.
Ages since I last knew
The wistful softness of your mouth on mine.
(Ah God! Warm mouths that clung and searched!)
Your poised triumphant fingertips
That traced erotic ecstacies
Through the heater amber hollows ...

Curious that time.
The stately cadence of the days and hours and centuries.
Should be so wholly you -
Days that moved in an avalanche
Of crashing, colorful emotion
Have become rhythmic, pendulemated
Grey hammers on my soul.
Hours once etched
With the gold tracery of your laughter
Are pallid indecencies
That cling and will not go.
All things are dead now you have gone.
The lean cats of squalor
Run patterns beneath my feet.
It is not just that I
Who have lived emotion
Should have it stifled
By the slim white hands I so adore
And cannot forget.
Better the agonies
Of your swift, dear fingertips
Playing raptly, certainly
On the raw nerve keys of my soul
Than - nothing.

Have you forgotten -
Have your forgotten -
The body's heat beneath the palm.
The mouth that kissed
Each cool, delightful fingertip
The while they traced
Each tear and tear and sun and You-cut wrinkle
On the face beneath -
Have you forgotten

Write here an epitaph!

He diced the Fates
And, having lost
He could not laugh
But took his heart, annealed
Through close association with a dream.
And broke it.

And watched the thin, scincillating scarlet dust
Float slowly down
Beneath one inch of pine
Beneath a cotton flag
He lies alone,
The mad, tired mind at rest
Of the strident bugle
Echoed the laughter of those
With whom he diced.

Historical Notes

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