Antinous Fluminem

In October you find me standing

in a bed of murk and twig,


my face to the west as night falls.

“We’ve missed Akhet,” I say,

and we both think of what lies beneath—

the snakes, the rocks, the bones.

Naught but dust and decay.

You would like to tell me that I am pure; nay, exalted—

that the water will kiss me softly into sleep.

But I am no different from the others.

Slaves rot slowly;

even the dirt hesitates to claim us.


Say your vows to me. Say them

one last time.

Call me those names again—

my Darling, my Beautiful, my Sky,

my Apollo, my Venus,

O Holy Body With the Hands Just Right.

Say all this to me like you said them in the chambers,

your eyes wet, your lordship humbled,

my gaze on your lips to memorize the motions.


Come morning they shall pull me from this darkness,

and o, the women shall weep,

shouts all afire with my memory,

and the sun shall beat heavy, unforgiving on your back,

and you shall look upon me.

Me, child, creature, fossil,

swollen-tongued heap of blue flesh.

I bid you, do not turn away. That night I told you

of my plan to revive the empire, you hissed

like waves on the Nile,

“Why should you care for the empire?”

Indeed, my love, you turned, but I did not.

I, your bride,

your everything,

touched your hidden face.

I said, “You are the empire.”


In October the voices wonder why, why,

and the rushing tide dispenses itself into my lungs.