The Roses of Heliogabalus

The Roses of Heliogabalus by Lawrence Alma-TademaThe Roses of Heliogabalus by Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

The Roses of Heliogabalus

We were talking about art
and taking wine with our
sensuous king when a slave
released the canopy and petals –
their blush-making softness,
their deafening of the skin –
continued falling through us.
And when the late sun reddened,
guards turned the litter
over itself continually
until the ground was bruised
and whether they spoke of it
or patrolled their memories,
or held themselves alert
or felt their way to excuses
that bore their tentative hurt,
I cannot say, except that
these men walked a quiet palace
where all those able had
given themselves to love.