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Bill Herbert

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  Segedunum

They found a fort on smiting flat a slum
so virtually constructed at Wallsend
as full of steam as a caldarium
a folly only you could comprehend.

Our only legionary who claims not
to want promotion to the Capitol;
our only Pict to lose the Northern plot
and fight for neither nation, just the Wall.

Psychopathetic, marching into pubs,
attempting not to hear the cheerful chat
legitimately uttered in these burbs
by a populace abandoned to your fate.

You think that you can man that Wall alone
within the marriage and among the friends:
upon its moral battlements remain
the one pursuing duties and not ends.

Look north and under all the shrubberies
the sub-kings bow to Elfland's local queen;
look south and all the land-grab lordlings kiss
the nibbled cone base of the best ice cream.

Allegiance to the family before
the page confirms you've caught that northern danger
called blue subservience to the cult of Mother:
anxiety is more durable than anger.

While veterans of compromise persist
by using hostages - your wholesome truths -
as cladding for their southern towers, where tourists
take snapshots to forget the names of brutes.

It shall not wash, not even in the Bath-
house really rebuilt here at Segedunum,
your private code that cowardice or wrath
infects or breaks each time that you renew them.

You can't protect beyond your stern remit
the gaping shipyard and the shutdown pit.