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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 1, March 2013

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Brian Zimmer
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.


Zenobia

Every ancient, historical personage asks: "Who do you say that I am?" From the Aramaic rabbi to the Aramaic queen the question remains forever moot . . .

Daughter of Arabia, of Egypt, Israel and Rome, claiming all as her lineage, black eyes scan the borders above the heads of her philosophers. Only the poets grasp the failure of argument, the truth of dream, a distant mother whose breast bled the milk of an asp.

Midnight. Dismiss the salon. Summon the generals.

Reputation—
strong men bow
to she who
refuses egress, marching
into war at their side

Toasting triumph into the night, the boldest of men no match for the unassailable queen holding destiny to her own full breast. Nothing touches the chaste. Gone the girl given to Odaenathus, her warrior's womb filled with warrior's seed and the ever-expectant glory of blood.

crocodile jaws
swallow the Nile
belch forth
the sun and moon
to place in her hands

From the land of magic and circular fictions, philosophers now badly needed, every appetite an oracle. Not even immortality can bear the tethers of an ossified throne, withering hands at rest upon stony knees.

Midnight. Dismiss the eunuchs. Summon the generals.

a victor's dream
wakes to stumble
sandstorms
howl across the desert
before ranks of silent hooves

Impressed on the mind like wax, even Aurelian is moved by the raised chin, the flashing black eyes, the beautiful shoulders that will not bow. The road of shame might as well be strewn with flowers as Legionaries follow, lifting her train. The coin is cast.

Syria paraded
in golden chains
for a moment
the streets of empire dumb—
the Goddess bodied forth

The carpenter and queen perhaps end their days in the terraced garden. Every hero descends and ascends into silence. Every narrative shroud unwinds from its spool, binding all who would pass and pause for a moment's misunderstanding.

light
from distant marble
ghostly pale—
on closer scrutiny
a galaxy of stars


Author's Note: Inspired by the marble sculpture, Zenobia in Chains (1859), by Harriet Hosmer, St. Louis Art Museum.

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