During the First Punic War, the Carthaginians captured Regulus, a Roman commander, and sent him back to Rome, under parole, to negotiate terms of peace. But instead Regulus implored his countrymen to continue the war. Then, true to his word, he returned to Carthage and was tortured to death.

Thought of you today, Regulus
robed in toga and glory as
the hardened Senate wept and
hailed your name to echo eternally
amongst the marble pillars of time.

Did the gods trumpet your final crossing with thunder,
torch the sky with admiration of this courage?
Or was your reflection pure, unrippled
beneath the bow
the sea glass and so small
in one knowledged of her barbarous southern shore.

Know if you must, Regulus
that today
I walked the dog around the block
mowed the lawn
collected the kids from sport
dined at the neighbours
and between talk of mutual fence upgrades
and mortgage repayments
stood before the bathroom mirror
where blankness stared to blankness.

And now on a bed of folds sharp, angles precise
sheets clean, tight like a false smile
I sit naked, nothing, not even fear
I listen to the teeth brushing of my wife
I fail to see how valour
could possibly enter my life.

Other poems by Andrew Milson

Estuary Evening
Justice in Court 3A

Short fiction by Andrew Milson

Peace of Mind