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Caesar and the Nymphs

by Clarise Samuels

I thought I was safe
in my platonic haven
where I could sing you my ballads,
feed you grapes and serve you wine
as if you were a Caesar and I were a slave.
Ah, yes, I was drunk on your love;
I arose from the lake
where I slept with the swans,
they flapped their wings to spur me on.

When I performed for you,
the frogs hearkened to the sound of my tragic lament,
I thought ideal love could not end;
finally I had held something
that would have to endure,
welded to the soul,
removed from the corporeal frame.
Yet your favor began to flag and fade
even as you lounged at the waterfall,
and naked nymphs danced for you,
you had nothing to say when I passed your way
although for the others you posed superbly.

The sumptuous feast was not meant for me,
so I made do with scraps and remains;
I ate cold meat and ran my tongue
along the edges of empty goblets. I pretended
I did not see you
cavorting, splashing, laughing with the sirens,
the Dryads, the Naiads, the Oreads, the Limniads —
you were their satyr
half human, half beast,
an officer in the service of Dionysus himself
always drinking, hunting, and chasing water sprites;
they shaved your head out of pure delight
and frolicked in the fountains
with dewdrops shimmering on their youthful skin,
your eyes misted over with desire for them —
you were lost to me. I could not warble or trill.
The summer withered,
the fountains ceased to flow;
I dove back into the water
to swim with the swans;

it would be a long time
before you noticed I was gone.

Copyright © 2013 by Clarise Samuels

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