Caesar

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Caesar

.

.

If I am going to speak of you, I want

to speak of you properly.

 

You were not a man fueled

solely by personal ambition, but had

a drawing-in blackhole endless taking,

sucking-in-energy latched tight to your soul.

You also had

a throbbing outward force

of inexhaustible restlessness

fused with your being. You had

fortune emboldened at your side.

You risked all for all-or-nothing in countless campaigns,

taut with a certainty no person should have to bear.

You did deeds no peer had

the courage or genius to execute, and standing still

in victory, you never rested but moved to the next goal

as swiftly as you conquered the last.

 

***

 

If you loved God that way instead of war

you would have been more than you were –

more than the high priest of Rome or a king amongst kings.

If you came at the time of Jesus, knew Jesus,

Jesus would have satiated that terrible internal void,

plugged it, infused it with his light –

then you would have known peace

and your urgent voracity for power

would have been settled, stilled.

 

***

 

But as it were, living before Christ

you knew compassion,

were hated for your compassion,

by your own army and your enemy’s.

You offered clemency more than you punished.

All were held captive by your generosity

as much as they were by your fierceness.

You maimed their pride with your kindness, deliberately,

those nobles, senators, those rulers locked in the grinding

wheel of rotating nullifying traditions. You stood outside

of your society, no patience to give attention

to their useless squabbles of self-important entitlement,

their togas of whitewashed

formality, their ass-burns for sitting so long

in debate, on the concrete horizontal plains

of arrested progress.

 

They needed you more than you needed them.

They needed your violent push, your confident disregard

for all they held as fact, sacred and forever-lasting.

Your ego was strong,

a compulsive force of relentless potency, but

your dignity was stronger.

They foiled your many attempts to make peace.

You were isolated because you felt yourself superior

burdened with an innate drive

that surpassed all of those that stood before you,

and those that came before you too.

 

Antony was nothing beside you, nor Crassus, Pompey,

Cato, Sulla, Servilia or even Cicero,

(though you envied Cicero his literary talent as you also

wrote books, and even poetry).

 

***

 

But Caesar, did any one love you?

They feared, admired, hated and worshiped you,

but did they love you? I think your first wife did,

and your daughter with her, Julia,

and Cleopatra – she loved you – saw herself kindred

to a man of unsurpassed charm and authority.

She too was brilliant, ruthless and magnetic and not

the great pigeonholed beauty history claims.

The two of you together went too far.

With her, you lost your isolation and gained equality.

With her, you also lost your balance.

You became too much.

 

The senate fed your fate,

created monuments and celebrations

in your honour. While you stayed in Rome,

smothered by their demands,

you organized time, created the Calendar

and planned your next siege.

 

It has been told that you were a great lover of both sexes.

That your mere presence, cheerfulness and choice words

inspired armies to win when defeat was deemed inevitable.

You gave your soldiers the autonomy to choose you,

and they always chose you.

 

***

 

Over dinner, the night before you were murdered

the senators asked you

“what would be the best kind of death?”

and you said “quick, unexpected”

They gathered around you, 23 of them,

each taking a vicious plunge,

thinking they could backtrack, mend

what you dismantled, when instead

their calculated betrayal destroyed the Republic 

they wanted to preserve. And for you,

 

they furnished the stage of your last act,

marked even more immortal by Shakespeare,

brought to its apex by your protege Brutus.

Bleeding and overpowered,

you covered your head with your cloak, knowing

the oracle was right.

You, ancestor of Venus – died

one of the most remembered deaths in history, died

a death befitting your life, claiming your place

on par with the ancient gods.

 

***

 

If I am going to speak of him I want

to speak of him properly.

 

This sometimes-tyrant,

this namesake of July and a comet,

this forger of the clip-clawed Libra constellation,

was like an inedible mark,

a perfect creature aligned

with inner and celestial interlocking geometry.

His impatience and discipline

grew parallel, equal in calibre within him.

In him there was nothing lethargic,

no detrimental indulgences

and nothing chaotic.

 

Crossing the Rubicon, always forward moving,

daring, leaping outside the lines

afraid more of failure than of death,

he stayed the path, never compromising,

humbled only by the voice

that stormed triumphant in his head.

 

The voice, when waking

he never spoke about, but when sleeping,

gripped him, strained, strengthening his zeal,

igniting a landmark pure devotion.

 

He was made for that point in time and space,

to enact that exact mythology, a destiny

etched like a laurel wreath into the skin around

a zenith fixed star.

.

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© 2018 by Allison Grayhurst

amazon.com/author/allisongrayhurst

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First published in “Outlaw Poetry” October 2018

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https://outlawpoetry.com/2018/caesar-by-allison-grayhurst/

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You can listen to the poem by clicking below:

 

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