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Robespierre

for Justin Clemens
 

Love begins where politics ends.

Alain Badiou

 

I caressed my beloved

with virtuous hands. Chastity

 

implied justice

in a world corrupted by desire

 

for anything other than the truth

of equality. She withdrew

 

her sigh, redirected it

at the tumbrel beneath our window

 

on its way to the machine

of purgation. The Guillotine

 

never my idea

of just punishment. She knows this

 

won’t deter my enemies

from shouting me down, smashing

 

my jaw, feeding my neck

into the lunette. And I know

 

she’ll be fetishised, free

to sip champagne at the salons

 

with ennobled courtesans.

And I know I’ll see this

 

as they hold my head aloft

to drip blood on my body

 

my mother, a poor woman

wan, beautiful like her

 

dying in childbirth, my father

repulsed by grief, leaving us

 

at the mercy of destiny. I tried

to change that, refused bribes,

 

carnality and I admired only roses

grown in a soil sated by the blood

 

of the corruptible. Yes, I grew

fond of the beheadings. When

 

I’m headless, cadaver, rotten

will she, my beloved, remember me

 

for my virtue, or for my terror?

 

Originally published in Ashes in the Air, by University of Queensland Press.

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  • Robespierre