Crystal turquoise water near Cala Pira, Sardinia, Italy

           Mare Nostrum 


             The sun still rises from the Dardanelles,

             draws an arc to Africa

             and sets upon the Pillars of Hercules,

             while the eagle has ceased to sweep the surge,

             does not fly from end to end anymore. 


             Sunken down the shoals

             off the French Riviera,

             hulks of warships act as treasure chests

             to the thrill of blue-eyed divers

             from outside the acknowledged world.


             Someplace around Byzantium,

             forlorn in the dark of a crypt

             under layers of later erections,

             the gold insignia Odoacer shipped to Zeno

             await retrieval and upholding.


             Looked-after by zealous Italic sitters,

             ebony-skinned children

             of well-to-do Germanic families

             gather colored pebbles on the shingles

             of Capri’s exclusive inlets.


             On the sand of deserted beaches

             along the Gulf of Taranto,

             captive in the spirals of fossilized shells,

             the trumpet of Hannibal’s exhausted elephants

             reechoes through the millennia.



               First published in Poetry New Zealand (New Zealand)