CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
“You have mistook, my lady,
Polixenes for Leontes.”
—A Winter’s Tale
It makes a difference whether he is rosy-fingered
or trigger-fingered. Whether, my lady,
he is like a green penny with Lincoln rubbed out,
or shining forth with a light all its own.
It makes a difference if he is one-
Legged, four, or no-legged.
Half-cantaloupe, parti-colored, undercover
or local color. Combatant ocelot, or
an exotic breed in hostile territory.
You have mistook, thou thing,
insurgents for peppermint,
Jolene Dark for Angel Day, mistook
a blue-green crayon astray from its box
for down-home blues.
It must suit like a scarlet cloak
on a young man, like Papi
for papillon, suit a sock on a snake.
Is marvelous, is sweet, is far-off.
A difference, if the operative
is the alien, the far-fetcht
foreign exchange student on his best behavior,
the scratcher at the window, the poor
translator with a far-off look in his eyes.
“How true, my lady,
And I was wrong.”
In Rome, In Acre
In the Teutoburg Forest, Arminius ambushes three Roman legions
Under Publius Quinctilius Varus. In Mursa,
Constantius II exchanges blows with the usurper Magnetius,
Blood on the floor on both sides. In Rome,
Visigoths sack the city for the first time. Vandals
Go at it with hammers and tongs. In Chalons,
Allied Romans and Visigoths let Attila have it.
In Pavia, Odoacer bushwhacks Romulus Augustulus
Marking the end of the saber-rattling Roman Empire.
In Campus Vogladensis, Frankish King Clovis
Has a beef with Alaric II, annexing Toulouse
To his realm. In Busta Gallorum, the Byzantines
Bring up the apple of discord with Totila’s Ostrogoths
In a scrap over much of Italy. In Ninevah,
The troops under Emperor Heraclius lay an egg
On the Persians. In Alexandria, the Arab conquest
Goes to loggerheads with Egypt, and tussling Muslims
Burn their library. In Xeres de la Frontera,
Forces light into King Roderic, pitch into Spain,
And rassle Seville next. In Constantinople,
Emperor Leo III takes up cudgels with the Muslim fleet
In a foofooraw. In Tours, Charles Martel hammers
Invading Muslims in a street fight. In Pavia
Charlemagne draws first blood, a ticklish issue
In the Lombard capital, adding insult to injury
By forcing Desiderius to surrender. In Roncesvalles,
Basques cut and thrust the rear guard
Of the Frankish King’s army in an obstacle course.
In Edington, Alfred the Great has a crow to pluck
With invading Danes. In Lechfeld, Otto I
Trounces the Magyar raids within German territory
In a row-de-row. In Clontarf, King Brian Boru
Routs the Norse hoo-ha near Dublin, but is killed in battle.
In Montemaggiore, allied Normans and Lombards
Stir the pot with the Byzantines, the last of their tiff
Over Italy. In Dunsinane, usurper Macbeth tries conclusions
With Malcolm and Sinard of Northumbria
In a disputatious tug-of-war. In Manzikert,
Sultan Alp Arslan lands on the Byzantine army
Like a ton of bricks, wrangling most of Asia Minor.
In Doryleaum, Crusaders have a falling out with Turks
And conquer Nicaea in a donnybrook fair. In The Battle of the Standard,
David I of Scotland makes a ruckus
In the scrimmage over Queen Matilda. In Myriokephalon,
Emperor Manuel I Komnenos measures swords with the Seljuks
For a last ditch fight. In Acre, King Richard makes blood flow freely
On Saladin’s army. In Kalka River,
Mongols bump heads with Russians and take Moscow.
In Largs, the Scots mix it up with King Haakon
In an argy-bargy and force him to cede the Hebrides. In Acre,
After a war of words, Mamluks make good on their pledge
Ending that run-in in the Holy Land.
Camille Guthrie is the author of the poetry books The Master Thief and In Captivity (Subpress), and the chapbooks Defending Oneself (Beard of Bees) and People Feel with Their Hearts (forthcoming from Instance Press). In the fall, her collection of poems about Louise Bourgeois, Articulated Lair, will appear from Subpress. She holds degrees from Vassar College and the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Brown University and has taught literature most recently at Bennington College.