from Threnody in Three Voices


Joel Chace








I begin my work when Servius Galba was consul for the second time

with Titus Vinius for his colleague.  Great intellects had

passed away.  Then too the truthfulness of history

was impaired in many ways; at first, through men's ignorance

of public affairs, which were now wholly

strange to them, then, through their passion for flattery.



                         In the anteroom, he began to notice how small he’d become, considerably smaller than the several others there  —  men and women  —



                                      Left hospital with Marci today, for home.

                                      Ronnie, Mother, & Jule came to pick us up.

                                      Jule didn’t quite know what to say, but after

                                      we gave her a toy dog from her new sister, she

                                      was O.K.  Good to be home, but so tired & weak.




                         and even much smaller than he’d been before,








I am entering on the history of a period rich

in disasters, frightful in its wars, torn by

civil strife, and even in peace full of horrors.

Sacred rites were profaned; there was profligacy

in the highest ranks; the sea was crowded with exiles,

and its rocks polluted with bloody deeds.

In the capital there were yet worse horrors.



                         a fact that he’d soon have to explain to his superior,



                                                    The Lakelands’ 7 yr. old son died of

                                                     polio this a.m.  Only seemed sick a few

                                                     hours before.  All parents here getting

                                                     jittery.  Have put Jule on

                                                     homogenized milk until this is over.




                who was about to chastise    him for arriving late that morning.








5 or 6 cases in town now.  Don’t

dare let Jule or Marci go in.  All

Halloween activities have been called off. 



  The rewards of the informers were no less odious

  than their crimes; for while some seized on consulships and priestly

  offices, as their share of the spoil, others on procuratorships,

  and posts of more confidential authority, they robbed and

  ruined in every direction amid universal hatred and terror.

  Those who had not an enemy were destroyed by friends.



                                                            Not quite a homunculus, he

                                      thought about himself, though he was now

                                      certain that those in the room were now naming

                                      him such



Tried to sort out some of the newspapers.  I’m

way behind on my reading now.  Marci’s

naps are so short it’s hard to accomplish anything.








Galling to troops who rebelled against the old discipline,

and who had been accustomed by fourteen years’ service under

Nero to love the vices of their emperors, as much

as they had once respected their virtues. 



                          behind his tiny back.

                               Though he’d been caught out as tardy, he gauged

                          —  through the filthy windows  —  the hour as still

                          very early,



                                  Jule’s 4th birthday.  When she was finally in bed,

                                  I began to think back to when she had the croup

                                  so bad, not long after her first birthday.  The attack

                                  started Thanksgiving night, 1950, and continued

                                   night & day for 4-5 weeks (2 weeks in

                                   hospital).   Dr. told us she might

                                   not make it, but here she is!




                          not terribly long after dawn.  Which was why he

                          couldn’t get straight



Few had any discrimination or patriotism, many

had foolish hopes for themselves, and spread interested

reports, in which they named this or that person to whom

they might be related as friend or dependant.  








how, earlier that morning,



                                   Marcie woke 6 or 8 times during night.  Teeth

                                   must really



                                                                      in virtually the same light,



                          For to urge his duty upon a prince is indeed

                          a hard matter; to flatter him, whatever his character,



                                                             hurt.  Hope they push through

                                    as I’m getting mighty tired. 



                          is a mere routine gone through without any heart.



he’d had time to climb to the summit on the city’s opposite








Jule turns television



   Let Nero, swollen with pride, be ever before

   your eyes.  What shook his yoke



                        side, before showing up here.

                             How much older he’d been hours ago, ascending that street, his pace steady, though decidedly



                                                       voice way

down if the program



                                                                      from our necks was his

   own profligacy, his own brutality, and that, though there had been

   before no precedent of an emperor condemned by his own people.




                                                   scares her.



                                                           slow.  After all, he was venturing out for the first time in the months








Many who wished him well, spoke with enthusiasm; those



                                                                            since his retirement.  The

                                            very next day after taking his pension, he fell


                                                                 Did quite a bit of shopping dept.

                                                                 store.  Had to  



who had opposed him, in



                                                                       ill  —  that is, into despair.

                                             Forty years of numbing, enervating effort to

                                             teach literature; then blinking his eyes upon

                                             the horror of the unrecognizable



                                                                         stop when money gave out.



                                          moderate terms; the majority met him with

an officious homage, having aims of their own and no thought for

                                                                                          the state.  








world around him, its people  —  even the young  —  looking every way stunned.

     But that morning, he



           Otho, meanwhile, who had nothing to hope while the State

           was tranquil, and whose whole plans depended on

                                                                                     revolution, was

            being roused to



                          Jule played “Jingle Bells” at church on her toy



                                                                        woke and, at last, exited his home.  As he began trudging up the incline,



                           trombone.  Got up on stage all by

                           herself.  She’s a real comedienne  —





                                                     action by a combination of

           many motives, by a luxury that would have embarrassed even

           an emperor, by a poverty that a subject

           could hardly endure, by his rage and his envy.



                                             all the other kids laughing.








Joel Chace’s most recent collections include Sharpsburg (Cy Gist Press), Blake’s Tree (Blue & Yellow Dog Press), Whole Cloth (Avantacular Press), Red Power (Quarter After Press), Kansoz (Knives, Forks, and Spoons Press), Web Too (Tonerworks), War, and After (BlazeVOX [books]), Scorpions (Unlikely Books), and Humors (Paloma Press).