A Gladiators Lament

a poem by Victoria Zammit

50,000

A victory means
nothing.

The cheering crowds
forget your name
when the next champion
catches their eye –

Always in better armour,
wielding better weapons.

I hand over some gold
and hope for the best.

40,000

How many times
can I stand the cheering
before it becomes
white noise?

I hand over some gold
and curse the gods.

30,000

I consider buying
an animal
and setting it free
to maul
and growl
and do what it does best.

Am I any better than it?

I hand over some gold
and dream of revenge.

20,000

There isn’t enough patience
in Pandora’s Box
to pull me through this.

I watch the way
they look at me –
I know
they do not see
beyond the metal plating.

I hand over some gold
and pray for this to be over.

10,000

I almost lost a limb
and had considered that
a blessing.

The word ‘almost’
lives in the spaces
of possibility.

Maybe being a cripple
would have saved me
from this.

I hand over some gold
and consider the alternatives.

5,000

I’ve stopped counting.

I hand over some gold
and know it’s not enough.

200

For what it’s worth
his kindness has been
good.

The meals,
maidens,
weapons
and wine

have been enough to satisfy
most men.

I am not most men.

I hand over some gold
and think of mutiny.

0

Freedom tastes
like wasted years
in a sand pit

and I am a feral animal
learning to be wild again.

I pocket some gold
and walk away.

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