Vox Populi

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Rachel Hadas: The Mothers on the Wall

stant pavidae in muris matres oculisque sequuntur
pulveream nubem et fulgentes aera catervas
                  Aeneid VIII. 590-1
The fearful mothers standing on the wall,
the cloud of dust they follow with their eyes – 
millennia pass, and. Nothing’s changed at all
of our self-inflicted miseries.
Young men stamping; clouds of dust their feet
Stir up; the gleaming weapons and the heat –
the women, poised and fearful, gazing down
as the squadron marches out of town,
keep following its progress even when
nothing is left to see of all the men,
horses, lances, banners.   Only air
trembles and registers that they were there:
dust devils, horse manure blown on the wind,
a fume of sweat are all that’s left behind.
Nothing more; the life has passed.  But still 
stricken, the mothers stare down from the wall.

Rachel Hadas studied classics at Harvard, poetry at Johns Hopkins, and comparative literature at Princeton. Since 1981 she has taught in the English Department at Rutgers University, and has also taught courses in literature and writing at Columbia and Princeton.

From Poems for Camilla by Rachel Hadas (Measure Press, 2018). Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.

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