The Devoted Widow
In an obscure and likely apocryphal aside
in his Secret History, Procopius reminds us
of the death and unstitching of Domitian,
Vespasian’s son, the carved one
for whom murder wasn’t final enough.
His wife Domitia requested the body,
the pieces anyway, resolved to bury it
and carry out a coup against the inhuman court.
When she succeeded in gathering his flesh,
the widow of Domitian, Emperor of Rome,
ordered the whole sculpted in bronze,
the only extant monument,
erected in the street leading
to the Capitol: the visage and the end.
Cy Twombly’s Death of Actaeon (1962/63)
Now the dogs are loud and black. Now what should
be blood and skin is yellowing as a fire fighting to ignite
everywhere yellows at its edges. There is no wind in the trees,
no wild heavens, no movement but on the earth. We find
ourselves at the end of a story, past the stumbling into
sin, beyond the transgression or whatever it is sets a goddess off.
Artemis, dressed in dignity and sanity, is gone, left before
the finale. Yes. Here it is: the forest full of black dogs,
loud but not barking, and Actaeon, their teeth in his seams, horns
held high, belling out their names. Yes. Well. She’s gone.