Chris Everly


Dead Parchment

"He vows to endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword."
-The gladiator's oath as cited by Petronius (Satyricon, 117).

(Recovered from an archaeological dig in Pozzuoli, Italy in 1982 and translated.)

Year of the Consulship of Marcellus and Rutilus: a.d. IV Non. Jan (January 4, 287 BC)

Puteoli, Campania—Amphitheater's holding cell--mid-day’s sun

With salted heart and bitter tongue,
And in the cursed words
From a condemned slave’s last breath,
I speak only to parchment
That may never see another's eyes.
I am set to stand once more
On blood-drenched sand
To appease the roar of crowd;
Minds set to a deathly spectacle
And I, to see it to purpose.

Feeble thoughts of rebellion
Rise like sun breaking through dawn,
Of hurling dull sword and rusted shield
At his humble editor, hoping that my mark
Is true and will puncture his flesh.
To do so would mean all of our deaths,
And I would see selfish desires turn to dust.
Even now he speaks to waiting arena,
Of offerings, to the gods, for bountiful harvest.
Instead, I pray that Jupiter turns idle back,
And lays waste to his sorted patronage.

My burdened brothers and I await our entrance,
The stigma of our Ludus branded on arm
Speaks to an oath forced from thy will,
One of glory, engraved with the sting of a whip.
We fight for the honor of our Dominus,
But there can be none in death for amusement.
We fight behind forced sword and broken will,
Our worth set at market, bought and sold,
Like livestock corralled to butcher's knife.
There is no honor in being stripped of life,
For simple coin, at the commands of crowd.

I seek audience with those who enslaved me,
One day, they shall kneel before my blade.
I will not seek vengeance on my captors,
But put blamed hand on Jupiter himself.
The afterlife is calling and I pray,
That he is the first I see.

Copyright © Chris Everly 2012

Chris Everly, from Manchester NH, has been seen in various online and printed publications. He is currently studying poetry and creative writing. Chris is also working on his first play and his first book of poetry.