The coins

of the Younger Justinian’s second reign

are rare. Recognizing

their numismaticity

they passed out of circulation

and into the drawers of the rich

as rapidly as they were struck.

The authorities

becoming aware of a good thing

issued more coins. In the streets

they were sold like amphetamines:

under-cover; in alley-ways,

especially, there was a black-market

in uncirculated Solidi,

the emperor’s full face gleaming

at his audience of collectors.

In his left hand he holds

a sword. In the right a cross.

To celebrate the occasion

on which he would eventually

get his revenge

on those who had ousted him previously,

he changed the inscriptions

from Latin to Greek. That

was also a sop, to the masses

who were indigenous to the East.

But then, thinking (erroneously) that a little extra

gold in hand, as they said later

of Paris, was worth a Mass at Saint Sophia,

he cut down the weight. Well,

kill whom you will,

but don’t short-change your protectors.

As may be anticipated

that was his downfall.

They gouged out his eyes

like hot tamales

and the Master of the Mint

made a similar peace

with his maker.

Such then was the apex

of the Byzantine Empire.

In the next generation

they were more careful

with the coinage.