Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Tuesday poem #411 : Kat Cameron : Mosaic of an Imperial Girl

Empress Theodora, Church of San Vitale
Mosaic tile, c. AD 547


Haloed in gold tesserae, I dominate
           the chapel in Ravenna.
Large sloe eyes, aquiline nose,
jeweled headdress, strands of pearl.
          cascading down my royal robe.

Theodora was beautiful of face and otherwise graceful,
but too short and sallow.

Which image will last? I danced for the Blues,
           dazzled Byzantium,
married Justinian. How else to gain power?

Justinian should have married a woman who
had learned the ways of modesty, still a virgin
with perky breasts.

Yes, I was a stripper. My father died

           when I was five.
My sisters and I paraded through the Hippodrome,

our hair wreathed with myrtle, our hands

Never has there been a person so enslaved
to lust in all its forms

Yes, I had lovers. I simulated sex on stage,
a swan pecking grain between my thighs.
           People like to laugh.

It was during this time that the morals
of almost all women too were corrupted

In Procopius’ Secret History, I copulated
           with hundreds. Who
has the energy? Stripper with a

heart of gold, I preferred gold jewelry:
           the original imperial girl.




The italicized lines are from Prokopios: The Secret History with Related Texts. Edited and translated by Anthony Kaldeliss. Hackett Publishing, 2010.




Kat Cameron is the author of two collections of poetry: Ghosts Still Linger (University of Alberta Press, 2020) and Strange Labyrinth (2015). Her short-story collection The Eater of Dreams (Thistledown Books, 2019) was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. She has published poetry and stories in numerous journals and anthologies, including Beyond Forgetting: Celebrating 100 Years of Al Purdy, CV2, Descant, Grain, New Forum, Room, and 40 Below: Volume 2. Her short story “Dancing the Requiem” won Prairie Fire’s 2018 fiction contest. She lives in Edmonton on Treaty 6 territory and teaches writing at Concordia University of Edmonton.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan


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