In the shadow of abundance

Rich black soil between the mountain and the sea.
They couldn’t believe their luck.
Fields, abundant with minerals,
Blessed with the sweetest wines and plumpest olives
All their tribes gathered in the shadow of the mountain.

And the sea!

From a thousand miles,
From the North, the South, the East,
Ships competed to pack their harbor with spices and flaxens, and swept up their crops in return.

They couldn’t believe their luck.

Ennius in his brothel, swaggering down corridors engorged with sailors,
Swelled his thoughts with expectation—
Two months more and he’d build a garden in his courtyard that all would envy.

Town planner Jovian sited new wells,
For the aqueduct had flooded their pipes with crystalline water,
Fulsome plentitude for the populace flocking the city from across the known world.

They all must have noticed the white smoke,
Because the sky was their constant reference point,
The wanderer stars they named as deities,
The shifting arc of the sun.

But there was so much work to be had serving summer vacationers.
A new shipment of copper was coming in next week.
Too hot to venture into the countryside,
And Faustina recovering from a sprained ankle.

The rumble that clattered down from the mountain must have formed the undertone to every conversation:
Britannicus soon to defend his laurels against Germanus,
While Frontus girded for an even fiercer battle against Pansa in the city council,
Facing off with promises each to be less corrupt than the other.
Comedians regaled mobbed theaters with badinage about the ash.

For now a fine ash was dusting the city roofs, blackening beards, and slickening the stones of the carriageways.

A few people left town.

[Forum in Pompeii]

This poem was published in the Winter 2020 issue of The Courtship of Winds.

Andy Oram
March 1, 2018

More poems