‘Cleopatra Diaries’, Jennifer Crow

Illustration courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art (public domain)



 [ Statue of a Ptolemaic Queen, perhaps Cleopatra VII MET 89.2.660 ] Day 1.

Obviously, in a previous life I had looks
to go with my brains, power
to match my ambitions.
How long must I suffocate
in this ratty old rug, waiting
for some future emperor to unroll me?

Day 27.

I grow weary; impatience
is the asp at my breast, and its poison
gnaws me like the saw teeth
of a savannah predator.
I should be the one hunting,
not hungering.

Day 113.

Typical, how I must languish
and watch the other boats drift
down this pathetic excuse for a Nile.
How I long to set foot
on a rocking deck, and let
the wind fill lateen sails and float me away.

Day 438.

How disappointing.
The emperor’s handsome challenger
has died in a wreck.

Day 572.

I know I left my ambitions
somewhere in this mess. I have shifted
a thousand papers, shelved
a hundred books, thrown away
the gowns and slippers that no longer
fit. What a mess I have become, an unfinished life.

Day 694.

Hesitation is for the fearful,
the incompetent, the lost.
This palace has become a pleasant
prison, this view of rivers and fields
an excuse to linger, incomplete.
The wind carries the scent of the sea.

Day 695.

I see a gleam on the horizon
like the lighthouse at Alexandria.
And if I dare leave the palace
of my fears? If I cross the threshold
to unknown roads, what have I lost
but the dull patterns cast

in someone else’s mosaic, or
some other queen’s cherished tapestries?
I hesitate for a moment, blinking
away the sun’s burn, and then
I take that step, out of the history
of sorrow, to the possibility of joy.


© 2019, Jennifer Crow

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