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Linda France

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The Love Potion of Polemius

engraved on a ring found at Corbridge,
now in the British Museum

He wouldn’t tell me what was in it.
It tasted of river, a tang of trout
with a trickle of heat under it,
wine to help it slip down gently.
It slipped down gently as a willow
                        coming into leaf.

I dreamt of gloves and shoes, the finest hide,
a second skin. Waking up was like dancing.
The sun lifted the sleep out of my hair
and I was up with the squirrels. Naked
as a baby. Hungry as a slave. Eyes
                        dry as kindling.

The first time I saw him I was a bird,
all feathers and song.. From up there
on the balcony I saw the sun
turn his hair to bronze as he walked.
I lost all power of flight. My face burned.
Couldn’t tell if the heat was his or mine.
He didn’t look up. I swear if he did
                        I would have gone blind.

Crowned and tawny, my lion heart.
Something gold about his eyes. He looks at me
slowly and I glisten. Makes me wait
till the sun is an arrow in the sky.
The best omen. He is the Emperor
of Amber, and I am a fly
                        locked in yellow light.

He invented magnetism. Science
was on his side. He brings me a bowl
of April, its lip so curved and gentle,
I catch fire. It takes an hour to get used
to the dazzle. We both powder into ash,
                        thinking of nothing but water.

The claw of morning. His early hungry rays.
Water and wine. A craving for trout.