flavius odoacer

by Annabelle Dupree

the gates were stormed
the empire fell
and the barbarian king did not quite know what to do.

the empire was his—
palatial arches,
monumental roads,
shimmering aqueducts—
but the barbarian king did not know
from whence came the arches
and the roads
and the aqueducts
and slowly they crumbled.

this he did not understand—
for did he not kill the emperor?
did he not assume the robes of royals?
did he not issue orders?
did he not receive obedience?

he had killed the emperor, yes
and was clad in resplendent finery
but the finery was ill-fitting
and his head too large for the crown.

as the empire crumbled before him
the cities set aflame
he knew with sickening certainty
that he was not the emperor
he was just a barbarian playing dress-up.