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Poetry: 1960s

Poem of the Day

Caligula

By D. Nurkse

after Suetonius

Caligula ordered the night city illuminated.
Every stoop, porch, or balcony was a stage.

He made the senators dress as prostitutes—
tight silk skirts, paste-on eyelashes.
Up to a matron to wriggle into a boy’s shorts.

Marcus Severus, one-armed veteran
of our labyrinthine border wars,
had to hobble into the amphitheater
armed with a plume and attack a lion.

A plume! We were fascinated.
We were all players, who was the audience?