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A Temple in the Path of Xerxes
Stone, frigid columns, pungent fumes from copper bowls on burning
pedestals, the chilling breeze still penetrates from the acute night outside.
These pillars are clammy, as though they can express my fear
of the invaders who arrive tomorrow to annihilate our ways.
My children are safe at the coast,
their mother spirited them down
with the slaves and my brother . . .
and now only my sword remains here with me.
By the manner the wind easily dispels the incense
and holy smoke, I can understand our gods have also
left this place . . . perhaps they too are at the shore.
So it is only myself and my mercenaries who will
face the conquerors when this night drifts onward.
Why does a man stay in place after the very gods
have fled? Is this the nature of a man . . .
to rail against the inevitable world,
while it is in the nature of gods to dissipate at whim?
One must stand, while others are smoke
for the awe of future generations.
I cannot imagine this place without myself . . .
I touch the marble, still moist,
and fear I sense the dawn nearing,
yet I see it is still better to be a man than a god
when death arises with the breaking day,
for men may readily complete themselves
while gods can only cry at the results
of their fornications.
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