In Alesia Poem By Andrew Hudgins
In Alesia, our last town, our final stronghold,
we sent our women and our children out.
When Caesar sent them back, we, to feed our warriors,
we let them starve outside the walls of Alesia.
Our men fought well but not as well as Caesar’s,
and in Alesia our handsome king conferred on us a choice:
You may kill me or deliver me to Caesar.
We could not kill him. Outside the breached walls of Alesia,
our broken stronghold, we delivered him to Caesar,
and we watched him throw himself down before Caesar
and we watched him throw out his arms, surrendering,
and we heard Caesar speak coldly to him, our handsome king,
and we saw him bound in chains. With scornful clemency
Caesar dismissed us. For a long time we heard nothing.
We plowed our charred fields, using each other as oxen.
Some of us found new gods, and some of those gods were Roman.
We paid our grain levies and, when he demanded them,
we sent our sons to Caesar and he made them soldiers.
In Alesia, we fathered new children and smiled sadly,
remembering our first children, first wives, our handsome king,
and then, in Alesia, we heard they’d kept him caged six years,
six years in a cage, our handsome king, our famous warrior,
six years before they dragged him through their capital,
some gray barbarian from some forgotten war, our handsome king,
our well-nigh savior, a relic of an old war six years settled.
We heard they tortured him and beheaded him, his head
jabbed on a pike and left till it fell off—
as we have ourselves, from time to time, honored the Romans.
We wish now we had killed him, our handsome king—
embraced him, kissed him, killed him, and buried him in Alesia.
If we were Romans, yes, we could have killed him,
and if he were Roman, he’d never have made us choose.
from Babylon in a Jar