9:3: “Evening in Pompeii”, by Rachel Swirsky

9:3: “Evening in Pompeii”, by Rachel Swirsky
Four days, we’ve gathered
in the ampitheatre
watching the death god’s children dance,
their enervated limbs drooping
through movements slow
as old women’s speech.
In place of eyes,
their hollowed sockets burst
with meadow flowers
orange and red and bold.
On the horizon, Vesuvius
rumbles with malice divine
showering white ash
across the dimming sky.
Wine sours, goats starve,
in their beds dying women plead
for children to return
with cooling cloths
and cupped hands filled
with comforting caresses.
We sons and daughters numb
our skin against
raw ache
of needs impossible
to salve.
We are like the dancers’ eyes,
blooming,
our poor legs rooted
to where we wait, rapt,
for night when flowers close.


Rachel Swirsky is a graduate student at the Iowa Writers Workshop where she’s learning all about snow. Her poetry has appeared in markets including Abyss & Apex, Mothering Magazine, Sybil’s Garage, Lone Star Stories, and Electric Velocipede (forthcoming). Visit her website at http://www.rachelswirsky.com to learn more about her poetry and fiction. She says:

“Evening in Pompeii” arrived as a set of strange images written rapidly in ink on a reporter’s pad. The process of writing the poem involved chipping away at the images, to discover the narrative that tied them together.

Swirsky is sure that her experiences touring the ruins of the abandoned seaport Ostia, near Rome, informed her decision to set the poem in Pompeii.



One Response to “9:3: “Evening in Pompeii”, by Rachel Swirsky”

  1. […] complete poem at Ideomancer | More Chronicle & Notices. This is filed under the following rubrics: Noted elsewhere. It […]

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