“After Diane Favro” by Jocelin Chan

After Diane Favro
by Jocelin Chan

“A Walk through Republican Rome, 52 B.C.”,
in The Urban Image of Augustan Rome, 24–41.
New York.

this is your tour guide, an archaeology on foot
of a city that lurks under the strata of its heir
what you don’t know is that i know this city well
the insulae with crumbling foundations in subura
could be colonial-era estates in sham shui po
these crowded streets running up the seven hills
could be the backlanes that criss-cross sheung wan
this shabby terracotta brick, this porous dull tufa
you could replace with scum-lined 80s tile façades
the shrines falling apart without the aediles’ keep
aren’t so different to out-of-order mtr ticket machines
blaming vandals three months ago for their disrepair
clodius’ gangsters baring steel in the pomerium
are much like black-clad protesters in 3M gas masks
they say right here, thirty years ago, lucius sulla
massacred his captives and their screams echo on
when i step out onto prince edward’s purple platform
i see the palimpsest of an iphone video over the now
the police wielded bludgeons, the people screamed
i ascend these escalators; a battle was fought here
the riot squad splashed the spiked steps with blood
as civil bodies crumpled down from the concourse

maybe, favro, you’ll say this is not a beautiful city
maybe you’ll prefer the way your story ends
the great autocrat they called the revered one
sweeping the streets, boasting that he found
a city of bricks and left her clothed in marble
but will i return blinking like an elegist from exile
seeking a city lurking under the strata of its heir
and find

Photograph © Oliver Farry.

Jocelin Chan is a Hong Kong-Australian writer living on unceded Darug land. Her poetry has appeared in publications such as VoiceworksVisible Ink, and Pencilled-In; she has also edited poetry for ARNA and is currently an editor at Voiceworks. Jocelin is completing her MPhil in Roman Republican history at the University of Sydney.

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