These shouts are for the public to swill
at a local bar, like a hero’s welcome
or, with confetti and ticker tape, a grandiose march;
Something in the nature of an imaginary square
at M.G.M., with German mercenaries on a hill,
and a thousand stereophonic extras shouting
out their brains for ten fifty an hour. But
that’s show business, and what is truth, and what is real
is all too often lacking in mob appeal. So what I think
when I think of him, is on a seat
at the very side, the place quite staid, as if it were
at the old, now defunct, Park-Bernet. He’s quiet, unobtrusive,
sort of shy, but inoffensive, so
the guards, with a shrug, let him stay
and sit, and watch the show:
as the bidding gets under way
his face, wizened by years
of sharp trade and the getting of goods, and whatever
it was that made him rich
lights up like, This Is It. His hands
itch but he holds them down
and feels the sweat
that pops like peppercorns upon his brow.
I see him sitting there, while
the price of Empire’s getting high.
The bidding slows;
The tension in the place begins to mount.
No one really knows the way
that it will go, but he,
his fingers clenched, and bent
like arthritic spurs,
wonders if he’ll have the courage
to say, I’ll bid
another hundred million gold,
he’ll be able to speak with style
when he’s up there alone. But now
the stragglers begin to fall on either side,
to ebb and melt into a mass that moans
at each new rise
to fortune and to fame.
It’s like an overwhelming tide
that crawls upon, above, beyond the beach,
and leaches soil from the lands you own.
Didianus Julianus clears his throat, and clambers slowly
to his feet.
Do faces turn?
Do they listen when he cries,
Here’s my bid;
Now make me Emperor of your Rome.