Here in this great church of second Rome,
bored and yearning for a slave,
we scratched our names in runes
into the upper balustrade.

And here along the land-wall we played dice.
And in the hippodrome
slowly pitted in with coins
a place to game in bones.

Life dragged itself along. We stared
at some purple smothered droning on-and-on
in dialect we didn’t understand. Daydreamed
of wives or other women, other men.

These days, foreshortened now by having passed
were once for us who lived them
far too long. (And filled with flies.)
Finally, the brands began to glow.

We wandered out into a sundown smell
of market meat pies cooling under moons,
sawn wood and piss and Greek grapes
hanging like green dust upon the vine.

The world – insoluble – is ruled
always by someone we don’t know.
World, lacking dragons but demanding
the moving of our skeletons around.

Better to watch the wingheave
of strange bats about the domes
night coming on, and want for home
than to be gone.


Ray Nayler

About Ray Nayler

Ray Nayler’s poetry has been published in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Weave, Juked, Able Muse, Sentence, Phantom Limb, and many other magazines. His novel American Graveyards was published in the UK by Third Alternative Press. His cross-genre short stories have been published or are upcoming in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and the Berkeley Fiction Review, among others. He is a Cultural Affairs Officer with the Department of State, currently posted to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. You can follow him and find links to his work at
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