Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Late Empire

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Late Empire

Article excerpt

I mean after the lashing.

After the welts that the lash gave rise to have

healed so beautifully, we forget where they were. Here,

we say, pointing vaguely, as toward a bird that

could as easily be a sparrow hawk,

any other falcon-as if it made no real difference now,

though it must, somewhere. It should. As between

grand events and those that are less grand; or as when

the Greeks described fate as a thing of substance, weighable

on a set of scales, pourable into steep urns- one for happiness,

another for woe-and the urns tipped accordingly by Zeus

as, from the vantage point that only a god can have,

he saw fit-which is only a way of

understanding fate, not a form of acceptance,

not a road to get there . . . There's a kind of fragility

that confounds appearances, where what little strength

that the body has left to it, though almost none at all, seems

inexhaustible. And there's a fragility that is most like

what sex amounts to when stripped of justice

and imagination: one more way of leaning up against

and at the same time containing the fact

of death, even as we ignore it or, for a time,

lose track, wondering instead at the heave-and-shallow

that the wind can be, sometimes, as if the wind

were a sea of water, the world presenting itself in

the smallest of shards that, very briefly,

surface-then they fall back away. …

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