Poetry Sampler

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The Landowners of Pompeii

The wind seethes pumice, hurls boulders.
Streets split into four dead-end directions,
rumble of hooves, wheels, and sandals.
They who play with fire
say it is raining on the sun,
daylight spitting up in steam
darker than any alley or hiding place.

They who play with money,
lenders with gold fillings shining through,
hurry to count their change,
load it into luggage on the backs of slaves.

The guards get drunk and buy land:
They who own no boats must stay
to claim their dirt, the last thing they’ll taste.

Even under fireballs falling,
the cowering shiver, cold as their futures.
The sun is a golden eye put out;
its ash whispers as it settles down, a shroud
for our bodies and whatever treasures
we take with us into night.


—Robert S. King. First published in Pirene's Fountain