National Poetry Month Day 38: “A Room in Cleopatra’s Palace” by Mary Jo Bang

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This brings us to the end of our National Poetry Month project, one poem short of a sestina’s worth. We close out this year with a poem by Mary Jo Bang, whose forthcoming translation of Dante’s Inferno will be our Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection for the month of August. You can find links to all the poems we’ve run during this project here. Thanks for reading along with us this month.

A Room In Cleopatra’s Palace

Flies and a fan and a pillar
in this or that arch of the empire.

Space is such a pain: cars shooting by like bullets,
a palm tree pinned against a wall,

a helicopter wasting away the above.
This is the world at one on a street

where the angles of architecture meet
and point west where the end of a tunnel,

unseen but assumed, is draped
with a blanket of crepe

that it’s easy to mistake for night—
[a woman’s mouth-made swearing]

CLEOPATRA: And I’m entangled with it.

And now: what to do with the fact
of the once-blue above, the mind-cloud

tinted pink with particulate matter—
a pollution that looks like a postcard.

CLEOPATRA: I’m saying yes to whatever
you’re saying: an asp in a basket,

betrayal and horror, a room that tilts inward,
natural vice, the smell of sweat,

wasted lamps, petty lives born to murder and war.
The delicate undid disaster of all good things.

-Mary Jo Bang

If you like what the Rumpus is doing for National Poetry Month, you’ll probably like this multimedia anthology of original poems we’ve run at The Rumpus over the last three years. Available only for iPad. Check it out!


From time to time, The Rumpus publishes new poems. Check out this multimedia collection of poetry we've published. More from this author →