"At the Gate of the Temple," John William Godward, 1898, Wikimedia photo, and for this poem, Kyra.
“At the Gate of the Temple,” John William Godward, 1898, Wikimedia photo, and for this poem, Mira.

My last mortal words were, “I have returned to
Nothingness.” We expected nothing, and were
Reduced to same, scorching heat, descending
Suffocating clouds, rich and servants, men
And beast alike, only those who had foresight
Or fled in fear, lived to tell the day, except for
Me, a lifeless shade, my death knell to relate.

My memories vague, fleeting images disjoined
From earthly pleasures and fiery pain, woman
Of Pompeii, that much the gods have revealed,
Voices bathing my soul in light, salve to agon-
Zing burns lulled from memory, relinquished
Willingly to soothing Tyrrhenian Seas, perpetual
Rest of caressing cerulean waves.

I am dead, this much I know, yet my mind
Lives on, vibrant tapestry of lifetimes, loves
Known and lost, youthful bliss, agéd pathos,
A dozen faces though all one soul, who clung
Faithfully to Rome and in obedience to the
Gods, a child in olive groves toiled, mending
Fishing nets, Pompeian lady of luxury lost.

A few days prior, we felt tremors, ripples
In my bathing pool, cracks in mosaic walls,
Glass tiles falling to marbled floors, more
Annoyance than unheeded seismic warnings
That our mountain would explode, for we
Had made praise and sacrifices to the gods,
And aristocracy lived not in mortal fear.

We lived in ignorance, nonetheless, at least
Wealthy of us, those with slave girls, who
In obedience served us as we did the gods.
I remember horror and betrayal reflected in
Her eyes and how I called her whore when
Mount Vesuvius erupted, angered words in
Retrospect I regret, knife thrust into my heart.

In tears, she ran to me as if she were child
Of my womb, who suckled at my breast, and
Buried her face twixt deep, as columns top-
Pled and burning fire-clouds descended, no
Time to gather gold and jewels, to empty
Family coffers, for our lives ended in one
Suffocating breath, incinerating pumice ash.

As we drift amongst Ionian Islands, my
Child you cling still to my breast, our burns
Receding from pallid memory. Forgive my
Angered words; in our next lifetime you will
Be my beloved daughter, Mira, elevated by
Men and gods, priestess at the gate, who in
Temples dwell, divine protection and light.

Pompeii-Mount Vesuvius animated video, “24 August 79 AD started like any other day…”  https://www.youtube.com/embed/dY_3ggKg0Bc

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