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Late Empire

ISSUE:  Summer 2005

I mean after the lashing.
After the welts that the lash gave rise to have
healed so beautifully, we forget where they were. Here,
we say, pointing vaguely, as toward a bird that
could as easily be a sparrow hawk,

any other falcon—as if it made no real difference now,
though it must, somewhere. It should. As between
grand events and those that are less grand; or as when
the Greeks described fate as a thing of substance, weighable
on a set of scales, pourable into steep urns—one for happiness,

another for woe—and the urns tipped accordingly by Zeus
as, from the vantage point that only a god can have,
he saw fit—which is only a way of
understanding fate, not a form of acceptance,
not a road to get there . . . There’s a kind of fragility

that confounds appearances, where what little strength
that the body has left to it, though almost none at all, seems
inexhaustible. And there’s a fragility that is most like
what sex amounts to when stripped of justice
and imagination: one more way of leaning up against

and at the same time containing the fact
of death, even as we ignore it or, for a time,
lose track, wondering instead at the heave-and-shallow
that the wind can be, sometimes, as if the wind
were a sea of water, the world presenting itself in

the smallest of shards that, very briefly,
surface—then they fall back away. Words like torture,
and worshipful. Winnow and chaff. Fairness
continuing to have nothing to do with it. No one gets to decide.
Just look at all the damage I might never have done.


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