. Elagabalus Consults His Soothsayer You must, Soothsayer, probe into Rome’s mind And speak of any hidden threats you find. Your Emperor commands you: show your skill Lest I subject you to my godlike will! In confidence, I come to you afraid That perfidy may soon leave me betrayed! I must know! Is Rome’s love for me enduring? And just as grave: Do you find me alluring? Of course you do! I share the sun-god’s rays. You blush! That you’re too shy to meet my gaze Is proof you find me regally attractive. In my pursuit of flesh I’m boldly active At banquets, brothels, even in the palace Where I can say (with not one shred of malice) My skills are far superior to any In acts of love. And there have been so many! I’ve conquered men and girls... But I digress. Rome’s senators are causing me distress. That group of dreary geezers I dislike May well incite my enemies to strike! I must know: will they seek to take my life? And Hierocles... Will I become his wife? You think it strange your Emperor should crave To couple with his muscled, handsome slave? Don’t judge me! Fat patricians all day long Forget that Roman legions make me strong. Men mock me as “an ornamental Syrian” When I am firstborn to the god Hyperion! One noble dared say I’m too fey and young To be Rome’s ruler. How that insult stung! Since my divinity is bona fide, I took his lands and had him crucified. The senators of Rome are strangely grave, Resenting the advancement of my slave--- Brave Hierocles, the man who stole my heart And makes me yearn to play a lady’s part. I call him Caesar, he calls me his Queen. He lets me play the girl I should have been. I’ve offered surgeons gold and full regalia, If they can craft me female genitalia. Admit it! I’m exotic and bring style To Rome, like Cleopatra of the Nile. I serve the sun-god Elagabalus And am at least as fair and fabulous! So why should those who helped me grab Rome’s throne Demand that I no longer rule alone? They’re forcing me (I whisper this in candor) To share the throne with Severus Alexander. My younger cousin shall not rule my lands! A dagger, poison or a strangler’s hands Will halt this threat. Still... I have heard a rumor My guards prefer him, calling me a tumor To be removed. That’s blasphemously odd When I’m adored and worshiped as a god! I’ll make them sorry---sorry to their marrow That they do not respect their Roman pharaoh! But what of you, Soothsayer? Speak the truth. Are you not drawn to me? My charms? My youth? Tonight I plan to play a winsome whore For soldierly young men in games of war. Come join me, priestess, lest you breach my trust! (Do not presume to show me your disgust.) For one night let our sacred stars align. To hell with Rome. Come! Let us share some wine! . . Poet’s note: Elagabalus (204 A.D. - 222 A.D.), who became Emperor of Rome at the age of 14, was assassinated four years later by his Praetorian Guards on March 12, 222 A.D. After he and his mother were set upon with knives, he was beheaded, his body stripped naked, dragged about Rome and finally dumped into the Tiber. . . Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.