Favourites of the Emperor Honorus

John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Favorites_of_the_Emperor_Honorius_-_1883Adelaide Art Gallery

Perhaps I traded something at the door.
I may have met a man
with sulphur in his smile, persuasive, keen
to do a deal —  my youth perhaps — as new
(well only used the once) on offer for
a trifle, scarcely missed and rarely seen
— it’s tarnished too.

Maybe I agreed.
Years shrivel and retreat — In here I share
a space with changeless, waiting faces where
an ageless emperor feeds pigeons. Here
I’m uniformed and eighteen and on leave.
And there are certainties out there.

I turn, return to time and pass the place
where  deals are sometimes sealed and see my face
stare  back from unrelenting glass. And then
I know the trade has failed, my waiting soul
moves  in and scolds me still and I am old —
again.

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