An unforgettable journey into the lives of the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum
in 79 AD - the year Mount Vesuvius erupted.
A stunning 44-page collection
of the poetry of Malcolm Deeley and the art of David Cuccia.
Join them beneath the shadow of the volcano!
Obscurum Per Obscurius
It was hot to be wearing the robes.
Paetus felt irritable,
never the best state of mind for taking the auguries,
but if there was one thing he had learned in life,
it was surely that things were what they were.
Still, he had little patience for his office in the summer.
Better to sit in the shade, close his eyes,
and forget that birds were even now dividing the sky.
I took a deep breath, raised the lituus,
then indicated the area of the sky to be observed.
The city fathers
had sent a contingent of their sons to assist me;
all of them thinking of tonight’s festival of Vulcan, no doubt.
Thinking about girls and wine; I was the same in my day.
Paetus used to always choose the mountain
for the central point.
It felt as if the gods had put it there just for that purpose:
a fixed point in a changing world,
around which the sky would arc and wheel as if on a pivot,
hawks rising and descending on the thermals,
silent or raising their cries to the heavens.
I resisted hitching my robes around
to try and let a little more of the faint summer breeze in.
The boys wouldn’t laugh in my presence,
but later they would tell their parents or their girls
all about Paetus the Augur’s
sweaty forehead and damp crotch.
It is what it is.
For some reason Paetus didn’t use the mountain
as his fixed point any more.
He preferred to close his eyes and turn slowly to the right
on the consecrated ground, extending the wand slowly
until his arm was fully raised; stopping only then.
The world aligning to his body
instead of the pillar of Vesuvius.
the patterns through which the gods would speak,
in the language of wings across air.
There was all sorts of noisy activity behind me.
The great bonfire had been set up,
and soon the fisherman
would bring their catch and fling it in wholesale;
an appeasement for mighty Vulcan.
Fish-dinner for the smith of the gods.
A single glance down
and the boys stopped all whispering.
I turned one to the south, one north.
One before me, one to my back.
Then I stood behind each in turn,
and watched the glorious blue of the August sky.
So many new thermals around Vesuvius these days.
The air seemed to twist with them, and the wings,
the wings of the great birds
that patterned the thought of the gods,
crowned the mountain
with a corona of complex movement.
I’ll know soon. Good or bad.
And when I finish, off come the robes,
so I can take a dip in the warm sea.
|"Dark of the Sun" by Malcolm Deeley and David Cuccia is available in a
deluxe hardcover edition.
Signed copies are available: please inquire at admin@gromagonpress
if you are interested in an autographed copy of this book.