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A Pathological Case in Pliny

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Hirto corde gigni quosdam homines proditur, neque alios fortioris esse industriae, sicut Aristomenen Messenium qui trecentos occidit Lacedaemonios ...
—Plinii, Naturalis Historia XI. Ixx.

The guards sleep they breathe uneven
Conversation with the
Trees the sharp cicadas
And knots of pine the flames
Have stirred to talk: their light

Shows him rolling in his bonds
As if he dragged his bones
Again beyond a tall
And ghosted mist of blood;
He took three hundred lives

And will not give his own for capture
Even. The smell of searing
Hemp and flesh startles
As the scream of birds—
Should wake the guards of men

Or dead. The fire flares and frames
A running giant his wrists
Caught between his thighs;
A burned and awkward god.
Once he tried the foxes’

Paths out of the shattered quarry.
No way now. One may
Kill his hundreds; still
No way. How can he live
Without his heart. Throw him

To the ground and prepare knives!
Do they by their hate
Or wonder break the breast
He shut to fear? Mock
Or pray as they cut flesh

Crush ribs and lay all open
To the alien chill of air?
No scream tears
From him; the tiny veins
Along his eyelid swell

And pools of sweat gather at its corners.
But they do not see his
Slowly swinging eyes.
They watch his heart; its brown
Hair is whorled and dry.

John Logan, “A Pathological Case in Pliny” from John Logan: The Collected Poems. Copyright © 1989 by The Estate of John Logan. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.
Source: John Logan: The Collected Poems (BOA Editions Ltd., 1989)
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A Pathological Case in Pliny

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