Mithridates’s Heart Breaks: RUBICON, p. 182

An old enemy of Rome’s, Mithridates, kept attacking and retreating, attacking and retreating. Pompey, unable to finish him off, struck “across the desert for Petra . . .  but midway, he was halted by dramatic news: Mithridates was dead. The old king had never given up on his defiance, but . . .  when his son turned against him and blockaded him in his chambers, Rome’s arch-enemy had been cornered at last.”

Just to show how wily Mithridates was, he had slowly been building up an immunity to poison by ingesting it in small quantity, for many years. But when his son sided with Pompey, he attempted to poison himself. It didn’t work. He was finally “dispatched by one of the few things to which he had not cultivated an immunity, the sword point of a loyal guard.”

His body is carried back to Pompey by his son.

#amreadingpoetry: Michael Graves in J Journal

Cain’s Father

by Michael Graves

Cain, I ate of it
Long before your mother did,
And not because some tempter spoke.

I feasted underneath the limbs
Of God’s forbidden tree,
And then I slept
Between two thick and twisting roots.

(posted by kind permission of the author)

All my reading, throughout this current residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, has been about ancient Rome. I started with Mary Beard’s SPQR and now I’m reading Tom Holland’s Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic. I’m very struck by the theme of “double-ness” which recurs again and again, from the founding of ancient Rome (Mythic: Romulus and Remus, twins raised by a she-wolf, but all kinds of doubles appear in other world literature too).

And of course, just in the middle of my residency, comes this new issue of J Journal (New Writing About Social Justice, from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City).

J Journal has always had a special place in my heart. You know it. Because it blends the fields of law, social justice, and creative writing.

I kept sending them stuff, because social justice is a theme that reverberates with all Filipinos. They published Magellan’s Mirror, a story that’s a magical/realist re-telling of Magellan’s first encounter with Filipinos (They’re giants). You can read part of the story on their site, here.

A few days ago, the editors (Adam Berlin and Jeffrey Heiman) sent an announcement/preview of their forthcoming latest issue (April 2017). It included the Cain poems of Michael Graves, which were the “very first pages in the very first issue” of J Journal. I wrote to the editors to ask if I could feature one of the poems on my blog, they contacted Graves, and he gave his permission.

So here it is, one of Michael Graves’. It is powerful as all get-out.

Thank you, Michael Graves and J Journal, for letting me share this!

Stay tuned.