The arena: observing combats the Romans fought
Against their own sympathies aroused by scenes
Of mayhem but sympathies quite unbecoming
Citizens of a warfare state. By its cruelty therefore
The howling mob determinedly pledged allegiance
To the authorities’ values and symbols or perhaps
They just enjoyed having people tortured to death.
That would be another way of looking at it.
The movies: here also a syrupy rich mix of sadism
And sentimentality offers and often delivers
Have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too experiences of a type
Nowhere else to be found. We observe the lashing
Of a kind and beautiful young black woman at which
The Romans would have laughed but as we watch
The lashing in outrage we feel as good about ourselves
As the ancient Romans felt. Or almost that good.
The Best Western Motel: in 1980 a woman asked
Would I mind if she fell asleep while I made love
To her and I did take offense but now in 2014
The same question from a different woman brings
Nothing untoward and even some little drollery:
‘I’ll be surprised if you don’t.’ Yet she stays awake
And later I do help her to sleep by reciting names
Of college football teams. This is paradise.