Of Sardana — James Reitter

“The Death of Sardanapalus” by Eugène Delacroix (1827)

“The Death of Sardanapalus” by Eugène Delacroix (1827)

No surprise this beds with Byron and Baudelaire. Egotism
cast from shallow vision, incapable of beautiful forms.
He’s having them killed. Women lay bare, exposed, a plaster
of curves, of expiration. Sinews of exotic Africa force themselves
upon Assyrian conquests, not of their own accord. Animal panic
in these eyes. She has to cover her face from all of this.

Apathy.            Disdain.

Tendrils of treasure wind through ribbons silks, velvet adornments;
Doused with wine, revealing their secrets in these last moments:
anger partners with honor; gluttonous excess as dagger meets tendon.

Red-eyed slaves offer themselves in service to a doomed decadence.

No salvation, no reward. It seems Caligula has grown a beard.


James Reitter is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Dominican College in Orangeburg, NY. He earned his BA in Creative Writing from SUNY Oswego (1995), M.F.A. in Poetry from CUNY Brooklyn (1997), and PhD in English from UL Lafayette (2006). His creative work also appears in Verse Wisconsin, Breadcrumb Scabs, Nefarious Ballerina, and The Journal of American Folklore.