Before Her

Before her I am Thespis – unflinching, playing my part,
Ignoring every laden ache metered on my heart.
Before her I am Hector – yet Heaven tips the fates
And I am found here languishing – and she, beyond my gates.
Before her I am Caesar, and she the Rubicon
But I shall drown beneath her might while she rushes on.
Before her I am Vulcan – ugly, monstrous – lame
Twisting words and praise for her sweet and splendid name.

But now I am a poor man, bloodied, robbed and vile
And to mourn the truth of it – unseated by a smile.


Rider at my doorstep dark
Whose steed begets what frantic art
Who is this king whom shadows hide
Whose victims tumble on the tide
And sprawl upon the morning sands
With ‘traitor’ etched into their hands?
Who is this king whose sole decree
Steals fathers in some frenzied spree
Of lead, and lies, and broken glass
And then begins to blame his brass?
Who is this king whose sins I find
Leave behind a child? His sign:
“MISSING – Father – 2010”
(I thought the war was done by then?)

– S.S. Bartlett

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I wrote this circa 2012 about Sri Lanka’s white van culture and journalist abductions/murders. The original has been edited, ironically to silence the voice of my seventeen-year-old self.