As when a smattering of cinders
flips a stable
or a name, the whiff
of grain recalls a good day, its shade—
so too do rumors
travel these ramparts.
fleeing but unwounded: bend
down to this grass and sandal grit, lift
my voice toward your ear--
I have a sister named Acacia.
I have wounds to prove I slipped
through Caesar's lines. Tell her
there's a ribcage waiting
amid this rubble. Tell her
to rebuild me with twice as many bones.
Judge me by my family, or even the gods
sleeping on my mantel— I no longer care. My past
is like a shadow, thinning when the sun plunges
under those hills. There's dust frosting the tops
of Perusia; there are Roman bones dispersed
like dinner scraps, as if Jove gorged himself on legions.
At night they drum their femurs on the hot, dry ground,
testing for reentry. My cousin's there, unburied.
Climb that hillside, listen for his whispering,
the teeth still free from dirt. As for your question—
I was born in Umbria, a fertile land, with horses.
DEREK MONG is the author of Other Romes, forthcoming from Saturnalia Books in February. He has held the Axton Fellowship in Poetry at the University of Louisville and the Halls Poetry Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin. New work can be found in Colorado Review, Memorious, Court Green, and The Southern Review. He currently lives in San Francisco with his wife and son, and is pursuing a PhD in English Literature at Stanford. Read more at www.derekmong.com.