Poetry: You, Mark Antony | clivejames.com
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You, Mark Antony

The sex, good from the start, just kept on getting
Better. She shook, she shrieked, she shouted words
In her strange language full of dogs and birds,
Sank prettily into sleep like the sun setting

Before she rose again, hungry for kissing:
And each kiss asked him back to plumb the sweet
Depth of her lilting hips and lactic heat.
"I never even knew what I was missing,"

He sighed to Enobarbus. "When she's coming
She pulses in there like a pigeon's throat.
I swear that royal pussy sings a note.
I stuck my head down there and heard it humming."

A foul tongue spared the general from admitting
In his own mind that what he really felt
Was passion fit to make his armour melt.
Manly obscenities were far more fitting.

The two men who once spent their evenings drinking
Now talked only at breakfast. She slept late.
Her afternoons were for affairs of state.
Her nights however, were for him. Just thinking

About her left him helpless. There's no knowing
If his lieutenant guessed ahead of time
This raging folly would lead to the crime
Of cowardice, and that the world was going

To pieces. If he did, he wasn't saying:
That Antony would brook no argument
Was plain. If nothing else was while things went
Haywire, it might be like a tooth decaying:

It might drop out, he might get well, quit fooling
Around when he had had enough of her:
When he had sucked her nectar, as it were,
So long he was ashamed to be seen drooling.

But Antony was toast. He kept returning
To the only battlefield where victory
Is measured by the victim's ecstasy,
And one soft cry is worth a city burning.

He died thinking of her, and knew when dying
She'd been the death of him. The world well lost?
It might not seem so when we count the cost,
But if we call him thoughtless we are lying

About ourselves and those long nights of stewing
In our own juice for somebody who tore
Our lives apart and whom we still adore –
And all the time we knew what we were doing.

(Guardian, November 15, 2003)