They say Caesar’s horses wept,
a single sparrow clutching a laurel
leaf frantically flapped

through the temple pursued
by birds of prey,

No wonder, you who know history,
read portents, now sleep uneasily,
blades wrapped in raw leather

tucked beneath your pillows.
Morning lines at the whetstone,
coffee and small chatter,

conspiratorial whispers,
a dime’s blot of oil,
grinding steel on stone—

small, circular motions by the innocent,
gliding strokes by the elders
who’ve pierced a liver, sliced an artery,

lived to boast. The heart quickens,
hand of death tickling up and down
the spine; plot, sharpen,

grind, no other sound quite
like it except for that gasp
at the end of the thrust,

how flesh surrenders, invites
the coiled twist in that final
moment of silent betrayal.

Et tu?

And what name will you whisper
in the handful of feathers kicked
up by the echoing hooves.

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

Ed McManis

Ed McManis is a writer, editor, erstwhile Head of School, and father—not always in that order. His work has appeared in more than 50 publications, including The Blue Road Reader, California Quarterly, Cathexis, Narrative, etc. He, along with his wife, Linda, have published esteemed author Joanne Greenberg’s (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden) latest novel, Jubilee Year.