Civitas

Acts of love have
material effects. For a woman

tending the sacred fire, these include
the risk of becoming

an extinguisher
of flames essential

to civic life. It is a burden
to put out

what others hold as central
to faith in coherence. Acts of faith

have material effects — a Vestal
Virgin touched by encounter

must be buried alive,
a beautiful metaphor

for shame itself, which squirms
even under all that dirt. Thus, the dead

learn too late
that devotion should be

unidirectional, a straight line
from here to suffocation. Love must not

bleed at the edges, must not meet
others in the banal spaces

of civic life. It is a burden
to personify. If Vesta’s hearth is the site

of the sacred, its material effects
are destruction: burning, consumption,

constant hunger
for more wood. Acts

of destruction have
fantasmatic effects. For a body

surviving encounter, these include
civic life, shame;

the risk of being
a proxy — tender

of the hearth belonging
to the public, by way

of the goddess, who embodies a dream
of faith in coherence. Material effects

extinguish themselves, eventually,
as when a woman

touched in the correct way
undoes the burden

of love and puts out, taking
the goddamn city in and under.