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Email from a Provincial Magistrate, Lucilius, to His Friend the Commissioner

by Greg Crowley -

What news, you ask, from this rim of Empire?

There is none. We hum and drum through the day.

At night we sleep.

The weather remains bright,

if damp. We have saved the hay and barley.

Mould is an issue in the public baths.

I received mail from Karl yesterday. It was smug.

I will not respond.

I am taking notes

on the local tongue: jen deffer (be quick!);

err un bweente (now!); slaante (have an ale).

You might let it slip to the Chancellor –

commitment to the post etc.

Thank you for the Glock. It has fine balance.

Gratitude from Vita for the Steyr.

Gratitude in abundance from Helen

for the oryx – though she would not say it.

We are enduring the age of disdain:

all adults are fools, all others less so.

“I am becoming a goth,” she announced

at breakfast. Vita gagged on her muesli.

I looked up from my tablet, smiled, and said,

“Visi? Ostro?” Her glare was petrific.

Contagion in the east is concerning.

Should we cancel all flights? Restrict commerce?

Strengthen the garrisons on the Marches?

And what of the Orange Throne of the West?

Can it survive the cost of its hairstyles?

Perhaps its citizens will remove it.

I cannot but ponder such matters

though they are now beyond my competence.

There is rumour the Deisi may raid

Dolaucathi. I have advised Gerald.

I am reading Seneca and Musil.

I will end with a local novelty.

Six herons are witnessed on the seashore,

imperturbably alert on the rocks.

The priests declare them messengers from God,

the druids guardians of the underworld

(storms had revealed an unknown sea cave),

while the scientists, dissecting two,

announce that they are nothing but birds.

The priests are building a row of crosses,

the druids surrounding the henge with pyres,

the scientists are shivering in dread.

The urban cohort maintains a calm eye.

Remember me to my colleagues and friends

at Broekzele and Argentoratum.

I should not ask – tell none – but is there word

or hint of my rehabilitation?

First published in Irish Literary Supplement in 2021


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