NR Digital

Poetry

by Sarah Ruden

THE MILESTONE CARVER
(With thanks to John Dominic Crossan)

I sent it down the whole Galatian road:
“The Imperator Caesar, Son of God . . .”
Junias took it from me load by load,
On limestone slabs, in all four hundred odd.
“Son of God, and the Chief of all the Priests . . .”
Not a bad life we’ve had here since the war.
We got a mason’s guild with monthly feasts,
And a bathhouse, too, with pictures on the floor.
“Of all the Priests, made this Augustan Way . . .”
No, it was nice beneath the awning’s shade,
My strokes more automatic day by day,
The breeze, the singing of the fuller’s maid.
“Augustan Way, which work was overseen . . .”
It would have been enough just to forget,
To think of stone, and each day’s blue and green,
To think of silences as each sun set.
“Was overseen by Marcus Aquila . . .”
But when I wrote the last mile, I was shaken
To feel a god’s work ending. But I saw,
Of course, that everything is overtaken.
“By Marcus Aquila, who governed here.”
Where did it come from, then, this echoing pain
To have an endless day, an endless year,
To overtake the overtaking rain?