Summer 2011

Table of Contents - Vol. VII, No. 2

Poetry    Fiction    Translations     Reviews

Bill Wolak

Xanthus of Alexandria

For five days, no, even longer,
after her untimely death at twenty-two,
Xanthus, against his friends’ advice,
withheld his wife’s corpse from the embalmers,
fearing, with good reason, they might violate
the irresistible beauty of her body.

In Babylon before Physicians

In Babylon before physicians
the sick were abandoned in the streets,
but all were forbiddento pass them in silence.
Instead, passersby lingered
above them offering advice on remedies
they were acquainted with from similar afflictions.

If no cure could be found in this manner,
the dead were buried in honey.

Blind Pheros

After eleven years of blindness,
an oracle from the city of Buto
told king Pheros of a cure:
 he must wash his eyes in the urine
 from a woman who had slept
 with no other man but her husband.

After his wife failed to cure him,
he worked his way systematically
trying one woman after another
throughout the entire city.

When at last his sight was restored,
he had all the women whose urine
could not cure him burned in a great fire,
and he married the one who healed his eyes.

Nothing is mentioned concerning
that woman’s husband.

Teraton Agora

Teraton Agora or “monster market” was where a discerning Roman
 shopped for slaves who were certain to create a sensation
at lavish banquets, intimate parties, or in a personal entourage
 by reflecting the buyer’s unrivaled sensibility, taste, and status.
Hermaphrodites, dwarfs, pin-heads, giants,
 hunchbacks, living skeletons, bearded girls;
 freaks with three eyes, penises that dragged along the ground,
 ostrich heads, weasel arms–in short, the very deformed
 who once were exposed at birth
 now were prized as expensive curiosities
and were certain to attract more attention
than others, purchased at the regular market,
who were merely useful or beautiful.


Nicerates, believe it or not, actually loves his wife.
He’s bought no beautiful young slaves for pleasure;
he keeps no concubines outside his house,
nor does he visit courtesans or prostitutes,
nor does he fondle boys at the baths.
That Nicerates is an odd fellow, indeed.



© Bill Wolak

Poetry    Fiction    Translations     Reviews

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