“Tibulius at Delia’s,” Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1886, WikiArt.

Part 2: Poison, Bronze Dagger

In naked silence I waited you, Camilla,
Simple sash around waist, polity round
Me overheard, floor-kept gaze, my loyal
Confidence rewarded, entombed alive,
No coins for ferryman, dagger or poison
To enter afterlife. What debts unpaid?
For I, Thyia, fear my soul will achieve
Not Asphodel Plains, but drift amongst
Concave sky, no chance to cast fish
Offerings into blazing fire or to pray at
Household shrine of bronze-face god,
To lethal blade, poppy elixir I returned.

Days numbered, I tasted poison drop
Upon my finger. O! Warm euphoria! How
Tomb distorted, door twisted, bronze
Dagger my redeemer became, stout
Manly grip, loving embrace of keen edge
Across my breasts, gliding gently along
Throat, I returned kiss, tongue touching,
My metallic reflection seen within hand-
Polished blade. Lo! I am transformed,
Bronze goddess awakened, temple residing,
Tomb-dedicated. Behold mortal ones!
I am bright powers of sea and sky!

Who is this, slumbering so soundly next
To me, who shares my couch, silk gown,
Flower adorned? Rise and sleep no more
My dear! We shall share lovers desires,
Praises of agonia, ecstasies death defying
And approaching, discerning true nature
Of divine. Yes! In festivals we danced
Within my naos, sacred lustrations of
Olive oil, lute and lyre, wine pouring,
Taste of honeyed fruit, ocean vistas,
Hair undone, cares trailing at our feet,
In love eternal, we shall dwell entwined.

“In the Tepidarium,” Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1881, WikiArt.

When I awakened, head lead-heavy upon
Camilla’s couch, unsure of passing hours
Or days, she lay naked at my side, voices
In my head, ancient rites repeating, “Rise,
Resurrection,” thunderclap mind-deafening.
Gods help me! Camilla sat straight up, few
Breaths gasped, eyes startled open, screams
Urn-shattering. Was she alive, dead, or all
hallucination? Bronze dagger I plunged
Hilt to death-pale breasts, blade twisted.
Captive in hell’s stone tomb, full cup of
Poison I swallowed, collapsing onto floor.

Poison or bronze dagger, Thyia fell dead at feet of her mistress, and in Part 3 will journey into Roman afterlife, realms equally perplexing. Thanks for reading.

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