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Burned into Stone

Mosaic in Monreale Cathedral, Palermo, Sicily (ca. 1174)

Your tablets flounder

on your history, commandments slain,

your lustful prince absolved but not Cain,

nor Lot’s nameless wife, burned into stone.

—Ricardo Pau-Llosa, “Homer to Moses”


Sometimes just an epigraph may suffice

—Walter Benjamin planned a book consisting entirely of quotations.

He lived in Paris then, at 10, rue Dombasle (Montreuil).

He couldn't afford it todaythe rent there's 30 € per square meter now.

He's dead anyway—the Nazis did him in.

Tout passe, tout lasse, tout casse,* they like to say.

It doesn’t do, I know, not to make nice, but it'll all go smash some day

—the whole sick carnival of complicit nations!


*"Everything passes, everything craps out, everything breaks."

Note: Epigraph from Ricardo Pau-Llosa’s superb new collection, Fleeing Actium (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2023), 72.


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