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Act V

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the instruments of our downfall
topple to our ankles
leonine faces lost and sharp-edged eyes dimming
so much have we forgotten
so much

from the hands that fumbled with corset strings we
take the sword
we take the bodies
we take the kingdom
we watch the days die.

saliva shivers on that mouth
that so kissed her
that so spoke her name,
but what does it matter now?

you laid your head on his shoulder
you held the hands that wrote those words:
all you could do for him,
dearest
all you could have been

and you
locked in books
ever a student, forever
learning and learning again
until no man’s word was hid from you

and still you looked:
and still you forgot to make him proud,
that shadow

who was the glint of a sword in a crowd of enemies
the graven god in the garden
the promise of a crown on your head
a bed to sleep in
the belated letter from battlefields that were his home

and you: apprentice to this deity
that invisible hand on your shoulder
the only promise he ever made
all that he ever gave you:
the world,
now and always
lost.

so brave have you been dear boy
so brave

say goodnight to the gods now,
say goodnight to Rome
(I will go back to Stratford-Upon-Avon
to count my thoughts in threes)
goodnight my dears, goodnight
you all have been so brave

(you who remain here alive:
keep watch now,
wait for dawn and keep watch over them
I have preserved them carefully –
do not break them –
now they are yours
so forget me but remember them always:

remember always that once there were gods.)





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