“Caesarion” by Peter J. King

(after Kavafis)

The eldest son of Cleopatra
stands upon the steps of the Gymnasium
before the Alexandrians,
his rich and royal clothing gleaming
in the midday sun.
Slightly to his rear, his brothers
whisper jokes, but he cannot join in
their muffled laughter.
Even when a soldier faints in the oppressive heat,
Caeasarion stays solemn, not a flicker
of a smile.  A trumpet sounds.

Antony declares that Cleopatra
is the goddess Isis, Queen of Kings,
the Queen of Egypt and of  Cyprus.
Their two young sons are named as Kings
of Syria, Cilicia, of Parthia, Armenia, and Media,
their daughter Cleopatra as the Queen
of Libya and Cyrenaica.

A pause.  A drop of sweat begins to form
above Caesarion’s right eye; he feels it trickle
slowly down his cheek.  The trumpet sounds.

The voice of Antony, his mother’s husband,
now goes up in volume but its pitch is lower.
It declares Caesarion to be the son
and rightful heir of Julius, who’s recently
been made a god in Rome.  And, as the offspring
of a god and goddess, he is therefore
doubly divine, and made the King of Kings,
joint ruler with his mother of the land of Egypt.
The small boy, dressed as Horus, somehow
stands erect and bears the cheering of the crowd,
in which he thinks to hear
an undertow of mockery.

Some four years later, at the age of seventeen,
the last of the unhappy line of Ptolemy,
Caesarion lies dead in Alexandria,
his crime: to be an excess Caesar.

Peter J. King was born and brought up in Boston, Lincolnshire.  He was active on the London poetry scene in the 1970s, returning to poetry in 2013.  His work (including translations from modern Greek and German poetry) has since been widely published in magazines and anthologies.  His currently available collections are Adding Colours to the Chameleon (Wisdom’s Bottom Press) and All What Larkin (Albion Beatnik Press).


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