Skip to main content
By Sarah Lindsay

From the Mithridatic Wars,  first century BC

Our general was elsewhere, but we drowned.

While he rested, he shipped us home

with the bulk of  his spoils

that had weighed his army down.

The thrashing storm

that caught us cracked the hulls

and made us offerings to the sea floor — 

a rain of statues, gold, and men.


Released from service,

done with war,

the crash and hiss muted,

we fell through streams of creatures

whose lives were their purpose.

We settled with treasure looted

from temples of rubbled Athenian Greece;

among us, bronze and marble gods and goddesses

moored without grace,

dodged by incurious fish.

Their power was never meant to buoy us — 

our pleasures were incidental gifts — 

but, shaken by their radiance in our dust,

we had given them our voices.


Their faces, wings, and limbs

lie here with our sanded bones

and motionless devices.

Little crabs attempt to don rings

set with agate and amethyst,

and many an octopus,

seeking an hour of rest,

finds shelter in our brain-cases.

So we are still of use.


Notes:

The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.

Source: Poetry (April 2014)

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Sarah Lindsay
Sarah Lindsay’s fourth book is Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower (Copper Canyon Press, 2013). She has received the 2012 Carolyn Kizer Prize, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and a Pushcart Prize.

More Poems about Arts & Sciences

Browse poems about Arts & Sciences

More Poems about Social Commentaries

Browse poems about Social Commentaries