Today, as befits the darker vision of this New Decade, I turn to Frank Manley. Here is his Zenobia
Zenobia rose like the star of the East,
Cleopatra redivivus, Queen of Egypt
and Palmyra, relict of Septimius Odaenathus,
rival of Rome.
Taken in battle,
she was led in triumph and forced
to wear her entire wardrobe -- silk-
layer on layer. She looked like a thief.
And all her jewels, rope after rope
of pearls, kilos of diamonds, carbuncles.
Her feet were bound with shackles of gold.
Around her neck, a gold and onyx
chain, the weight of which was borne by
a passing dervish from Persia, who surmised
she was being punished for prostitution. She fell
three times before attaining the Capitol,
where, stripped of her jewels and garments,
she was made to endure a mock execution,
during which she flung herself from the parapet.
The crowd below snatched at her scalp and pubes
for hair, seeking souvenirs of her greatness.
Frank Manley, American poet, playwright, and Renaissance drama specialist, was professor of English at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia until he retired in 2000. According to the New Georgia Encyclopaedia/Companion to Georgia Literature, his fiction "typically features characters who are imprisoned in some way and for whom chance encounters offer the possibility of liberation."
Manley's Zenobia* certainly liberates herself in a most gruesome, direct way. Her plunge from the execution grounds on the Capitoline Hill is not exactly in line with history, but that ending went through me like a sword.
Happy MMX to all readers.
* © 1983. Frank Manley. (From The Sewanee Review, Vol. 91, No. 1).