The arms are stowed below sobs out the scar-cheeked NCO.
‘Rome needs boots on the ground at home’ said Stilicho, and so
I’ve pulled the limitanei from tollgate and from wall.
Now, named the drawdown delegate by Rome’s absolute shall,
I shall remain to douse the flames at Fort Anderida
and patiently explain, again, the world it guards is over –
this cold age of synecdoche demands all hands on deck
and I must pry the fingers from those clinging to the wreck.
The soldier was a Lictor under Magnus Maximus.
He dumps his fasces on my desk in thunderstruck disgust.
Its bundled arms are billy clubs and vinewood swagger sticks
donated by evocati; its doubled-headed axe
Paulus Catena wielded in the service of the State.
Real fascists like him do exist, convinced they’re born too late:
they meet to talk of rabbits at the mercy of kit stoats,
have secret clubs, the best kid gloves, and dive bars where they boast
trenchant police state couture, trademark Caracalla cloaks
as cartoonish as polecats in their sleek aestival coats.
He says he wants to die here, knows that I’m facetious too,
and though we loathe each other we are part of the same crew–
the dumb defunded muscle, the arse-wipes of yesteryear’s
sad bunting. I am sorry. He has come to me in tears.