The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


A city unfurls like a sneeze
              across the hillside.
The present-tense blurs.
              The viaduct sprouts more viaduct.
The water tastes like prune juice
               & there are endless reserves of it.
Thinking is the mind’s problem,
               the philosophers write, so thinking stops,
despite the raindrops
               dotting the slip n’ slide
in ungodly patterns,
               despite the oracle’s efforts to trace
the strange shapes into perfect umlauts
               of destiny, to no avail.
Over a dinner of boiled flamingo,
               a father promises his son he will live forever.
Tomorrow, he will be shot
               while conjugating verbs on the blackboard.
Tomorrow, it will be today again,
                whole lives tucked between
the words is & was.
                 A box of swifts is flying headfirst
into a cloud of methane.
                 A cherry popsicle is time-lapsing
into liquid in the tall grass.
                 A general, believing his enemies
are hidden beneath the billowing waves,
                 is forcing his soldiers to march,
one by one, into the sea.

Matthew Tuckner