Burning Rome

I remember entering the antechamber
humming to the music blasting in my ear-buds
as the flicker of the fire was eating
Rome alive.

I remember how the orange blended
with the sounds of his fiddle, playing
what I think was a Beatles’ rip-off;
fat-finger plucked but gently out of tune.

As usual the emperor was high on meth
and beside him
was yet another consort slurping
on the royal popsicle.

I removed my ear-buds
and from far below I heard
the screams of slaves and servants burning,
and realized
that the luscious scent of roast was not from pork.

Nero ceased to play and rose to great me;
he took me by the arm and showed
me from his window
blood in tangerine and said:

“My friend, tonight the city is my circus,
and we can stay at home to watch”.

He served me tongues of sparrow,
as we drank Tuscan wine,
and realized that tonight
this show
was almost better than the cable-news.

The Fire of Rome, 18 July 64 AD by
Hubert Robert

Today I host at toads to write a poem from the perspective of the unreliable narrator.

August 31, 2019

14 responses to “Burning Rome

  1. I can not begin to explain how much I like this piece. Something about your word choices, the cadence of it all. Beautiful and bewildering at the same time.

  2. Incredibly imagined and written, Björn! The scene is vivid in my mind’s eye and I imagine an ironic smile on the narrator’s lips in the lines:
    ‘‘As usual the emperor was high on meth
    and beside him
    was yet another consort slurping
    on the royal popsicle’.
    My stomach churned at the horror of:
    that the luscious scent of roast was not from pork’.
    And what an ending!

  3. Well, he did drink the best of Tuscany wine in his lament. I’m thinking he was strumming The Doors classic, “Light my Fire”. Or the CW song, “The Ring of Fire.” Both were ‘going down.’
    This was a fine read, Bjorn, and fit your “fairly short” wish for us. (I will be the shortest with 51 words, not including the title.)
    Looks like our country may be going this way also, a golf round in the place of the fiddle, but literally by fire aided by floods, earthquakes, drugs and mass shootings. I am thinking we have peed God off in a big way.

  4. This is immensely entertaining, Bjorn, for a description of madness and political mayhem. I love the way you have blended past and present so seamlessly. The description of Nero is so on point. I find this narrator’s cynical opinion of the scene most authentic.

  5. This is absolutely phenomenal, Bjorn!! ❤️ I love the political references and the way you have effortlessly blended the past with the present. Love it! 🙂

  6. Like many other readers, I love the blend of past and present. This
    could be a video game/ Or an incredibly realistic nightmare, where
    our dark side is given free rein. Or just the present day in America.

  7. Vividly realised – and the sensual imagery – (particularly the ‘roasting pork’) work so well in this piece. Yes, I found myself asking who is this narrator, so friendly with the despot? so at ease with the horror? A clever piece (and a clever prompt).

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