Agrippina the Younger, Age Thirteen


Domitius gives her iron – a ring
Agrippina fingers it under her robes
while her hair is woven with flowers
gold placed on her neck and wrists
She thinks of the man    older
than her father ever was
At the ceremony a pregnant sow is brought forward
dark and wreathed in leaves   wine and crumbs
from holy cake are dusted on its brow
For the goddess Ceres    for Terra Mater
for this marriage   A man raises his ax
blunt-side down   strikes the sow
slices the stunned animal’s throat   opens
her belly    The priest pushes fetal piglets aside
handles the entrails close to his eyes
looking for flaws    Once signaled another man
places the insides on an altar for burning
Domitius watches Agrippina while the men
butcher the pig    char the guts    She does not look away
The priest steps into the blood   face covered   prays
in whispers   a flute drowning out any ominous sounds

Diana Arterian, "Agrippina the Younger, Age Thirteen." Copyright © 2018 Diana Arterian. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow, a partnership between the Poetry Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network.
Source: PoetryNow (2018)