Linda Weste is a writer, researcher, reviewer, editor, and teacher of creative writing whose poems have been published in Best Australian Poetry UQP, and academic journals such as Westerly. Her second verse novel, an historical fiction for young adults, in progress, is based on the lives of German – Australians during wartime, and set in 1940s Melbourne.
As I enter the exedra, Clodius waves a papyrus scroll:
‘It’s from Cicero to Atticus!’
His flapping hand beckons me to the space
Next to him: our ritual meeting place
On the fish pond’s rim
Clodius’ turn to read:
Like a nervous quail, his head bobs over every word.
He leans toward me, eyebrow raised:
‘Well, well, well.’
I try to peer around the mound
of his fleshy hands, but he stands and skitters off
Like a lizard caught napping on the sunlit paving stones
‘Ha!’ he guffaws,
and fixes me in his gaze:
‘Well, well, well.’
His face beams,
‘Aren’t you fanning his flames!’
I snatch the letter.
‘If Cicero only knew it was you, Clodia,
scrawling epigrams here and there,
Amusing all and sundry,
Making him the laughing stock of Rome …
… He’d regret slighting you
with that impertinent term,
I’ve read enough:
Contemptuously I let the sprung cylinder recoil
To the marble floor
Where it drum-rolls its own significance
Intercepted Letter from Cicero: Soft target
‘I hope you’ve got thirsty ears!’
over the fountain’s gentle pulse.
He strolls through the exedra towards me,
a papyrus half-unrolled in his hand;
it wilfully trails over spring blooms
inciting rise from a siesta of flies
He props a sandalled foot on the pond’s rim.
Strong; striking; ardent: Ehi tó chárisma, I smile to myself:
With his wild black mane; his long proud nose
Indeed the gods have graced him
Clodius strikes a pose I recognise: Cicero in oratory:
He thrusts out a shortened neck; winks at me,
I can’t im-a-gine
Tears of laughter pool in my eyes
He’s mastered the nasally twang, the odious tone:
‘Of course …’ Clodius begins to read,
‘He wouldn’t want his letters
such as they are …
… to get into
a strang-er’s hands.
So he won’t write in his own name …
Or use his seal …
And he plans to invoke some
Laughter ends the pillory.
Clodius loses his composure,
collapses next to me on the pond’s rim.
A chorus takes over with perfect timing:
Like Subura gossips, loquatious sparrows dash to this spot and that,
trills teeming through the jasmine filled air;
Heads together wings a-quiver beneath the hemp net.