ER (Aug 8,1918 / Teddington, England)

Outside The Roman Palace At Fishbourne Ad 75

Whose feet in careful sandals moved
past my oil lamp in the Palace?
My window eyes can see no shape
against the lights of the Western Wing:
a lover perhaps from the dark night
of the hidden waterways, where fires
of the People of the Kingdom
burn red with sticks - some Regni woman
pregnant under her brown cloak
claiming Maximus of the Guard?

The sea marsh smells of foreign dampness:
outside, their gods parade the mist:
we use their greensand and their clay,
their wood and iron, as peaceful builders:
but beyond the garden room I know
a century of tribal hands implores
a thunder-stone to break these walls.

by Eric Ratcliffe

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