Stant pavidae in muris matres oculisque sequuntur
Pulveream nubem et fulgentes aere catervas.
-AENEID VIII 590-1
The fearful mothers standing on the wall,
the cloud of dust they follow with their eyes:
millennia pass, and nothing’s changed at all
of our self-inflicted miseries.
Young men stamping; clouds of dust their feet
stir up; the gleaming weapons and the heat–
the women, stricken, motionless, gaze down
as the squadron marches out of town,
following its progress even when
nothing is left to see of all the men,
horses, lances, banners. Only air
trembles and registers that they were there:
dust devils, horse manure blown on the wind,
a fume of sweat are all that’s left behind.
Nothing more. The life has passed. But still
the mothers stand there, staring from the wall.