Emily Dickinson

By the Sea

I Our Golden Age is now, Caesar told Cicero, pacing the beach. Our verse and prose have flowered at last. As they exchanged bon mots shadows swam out at sea. We are an inland race, the barrister replied. A river brings us trade. Protected by our hills, our strength and dogged pride are products of this landscape. The Greeks as seaside dwellers, doomed by disunity and their indented coastline, hanker for foreign things. The presence of the sea unsettles and distracts. My dear old hedonist, Caesar said with a smile, you have your seaside villa. Call me corrupt and modern. Marble veneer’s my style, not your republican brick. II Poppaea, we’ll leave these two old cronies on the beach, the lawyer flustered by new forces and new rules, and Caesar whose long reach is with us in this room. There’s sand inside our bed. Jump up, shake out the sheet We swam then slept, my hand prone on your lazy bottom Now with each downward beat you flick sand at the sun. Our Golden Age is now. As sea-lights undulate and flicker on the walls, we lie without desire. Our bodies radiate the hours of sun we’ve shared. Marble seats where we lounge and fish and sip our wine, cypress walks to a beach and fleets of pleasure boats are symptoms of decline, says Cicero, the sea and sun contaminate. We swim for miles and sky and water fill our minds, the oleandered cliffs and villas simplify into a distant line. We give ourselves to change, these waves and now the sand receiving our limp bodies. A lighthouse flares at dusk. This marram grass, unplanned, resists the moralist.

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