(Daughter of Galla Placidia and Constantius III
Niece of the emperors Arcadius & Honorius, sister of Valentinian III)
Passion was her thing.
But careless of consequence
to bear it in the East.
And though palatine, what’s so enclosed’s
a subtle prison,
with gold accouterments,
a winding path beside a stream;
the sun’s beams flash between leaves.
In what better light can one be damned?
He was a pretty one, her chamberlain,
had all the makings of that Bacchanalian god.
He fed her grapes. One on one, by hand.
So she invited him in.
Now history has set down his name,
but little else. Oh Eugenius!
What choice could you have had? You do, and you are done.
Dear Sir (she wrote)
The days are longer than I thought.
I have not walked amongst
the folk, in the grand bazaar,
or out by the Golden Horn.
In a year, I have not seen
a street. My garden
is a maze of walled restraints.
And I am mocked by eunuchoids
and by abortifacient plants. But only I know
what I would enjoy. See! I prick
my hand. My blood is that of kings and queens.
My lineage is certified to be of Constantine the First.
Enclosed please find my portrait and a ring,
real proof that we’re engaged.
Just ask for me:
and if you’d set me free
I’d be your wife and slave.
Passion peeks amongst the crags:
Whatever’s there it finds.
There was no name yet
for the game he played.
Enough for any man
he had seven wives.
He tossed the ring into the Rhine
then retrieved it with a smile.
He knew full well that guile might wilt
whatever grew along the Hellespont,
that his weaponed words could muddy
even the Tiber at its font.
And so he said, Just send her here: my wife
or I shall leap this river
as those Israelites the Sea,
or that Caesar whom you revere so well.
Then that Eden of which you speak
I shall make it mine
Such presumption set
the kettle seething in its place. Eunuchs
trembled. Emperors raged.
Honoria was exiled
to a beach, and deprived
Her face was still engraved
upon a coin.
But it’s very rare.