36 CACATA CHARTA
Annals of Volusius, shit writ on toilet paper,
Redeem yourself by helping keep the vow
My lady swore to Venus and her Amorous
Boy: that if I returned to her bed
And ceased hurling spiteful iambics at her,
For offering, she would select the choicest
Bad poems of the very worst poet and give them
To Vulcan for his bonfires; and my lady,
As she has wit and taste, picks you.
Thus, Goddess born in the foam of the cerulean
Blue sea—exalted by She-Enchanted Yeats, but
Worshipped, too, by Giant White-Thighing
Thomas and Menses-Priesting Lawrence, by
Steamboat Stein and Sapphic Rich; and your
Boy adored by Grassy Whitman, “Greek” Cavafy,
And Allen of the daisies; and you, again, by Gone-
A-Wenching Berryman, once busiest satyr on the
College circuit—mark discharged my lady’s vow,
Which neither rude nor crude but charming is.
And now to the flames, come, you brainless
Annals of Volusius, shit writ on toilet paper.
5 COME LIVE WITH ME AND BE MY LOVE
Come live with me, Lesbia, and be my love,
And ignore the wagging tongues
Of wilted crones and toothless geezers.
Suns rise and set, rise and set again,
But we, when our brief light is blacked,
Must sleep forever, and then forever.
So kiss me, sweet , and kiss me plenty;
First a thousand, then a hundred, kisses;
Catch your breath and kiss me more:
Another thousand, another hundred,
Another hundred, another thousand,
Thousands yet, ’til we’ve lost all count
And must begin again!—keeping envious
Others, and ourselves, guessing the sum
Of how many fervent kisses much we love.
33 O BEST OF THIEVES
O best of thieves at the Roman baths,
Old Vibennius and catamite son
(Father with scabby hands filching coins,
Boy with flabby ass engulfing cocks),
I think it’s time you hiked up your
Skirts and beat it to the farthest border;
For, your pickpocketing, old man,
Is known all over town; and really, kid,
Is getting your hairy ass pounded worth
The pennies you’re now paid?
2 SPARROW, MY LADY’S PET
Hear me, sparrow, my lady’s pet,
Playing hawkishly in my lady’s lap,
Peck sharp the fingertip she offers you,
For she craves smarting distraction
From the smarter pangs of passion
She smothers so ardently within.
Were you my love and not my love’s pet,
How sharp and bloody would be our play,
For, alas, only in violence can I now release
Lust teased to flames by cold contrivance
Of your blackly luminous, Circe mistress.
16 SCREW YOU AURELIUS AND FURIUS
Cocksucker and buttfucker,
Aurelius and Furius,
You assume, because my poems
Are often tender and full of kisses
And sometimes merrily bawdy,
That I’m a wanton pansy like you.
Listen closely, you pathetics:
Though his poems must be soft
Or lascivious when necessary,
The poet himself must not be.
At last spring brings warmth again ;
The fury of March winds
Is hushed by April breezes.
You can leave now, Catullus,
These flat Phrygian plains
And sweltering Nicaean fields :
To bright Mediterranean cities, fly!
As if ice-melt I tingle,
As if branches unstiffening
My feet flutter and dance
And itch to take to the road.
Farewell, dear friends: by this route
And that, let each make his way home
From where, too long ago, he departed.
32 MY SWEET IPSITHILLA
My darling, sweet Ipsithilla,
My charming, dear girl, I regard as rivals
The hours ’twixt now and our tryst this noon.
I send ahead, my pet, just two reminders:
Be sure the customer before me doesn’t block the doorway,
And that you don’t suddenly go curbstoning for sailors,
Leaving me gorged with nine roaring fucks
And no one to tend to them.
You see, dearest, after a hardy breakfast,
I am lying here on my back, my prick already
Poking out my tunic straight through my cloak.
13 JUST ONE WHIFF, FABULLUS
What a feast you’ll enjoy at my house,
Soon, I hope, if the gods are willing,
And you bring the food; not forgetting
To bring girls, as well, and your wit and wine
And all the entertainment:
Of festive evenings, as I say, if
You bring it all with you, for, alas,
Catullus’ pockets are filled with cobwebs.
But in return (O what is sweeter than
Love?), I’ll introduce you to a new
Fragrance in town: a sweet ethereal scent,
Love’s very essence, gift of Venus and
Cupid themselves. Just one whiff,
And you’ll beg the gods to make you, Fabullus,
69 YOU SHOULDN’T BE SURPRISED, RUFUS
You shouldn’t be surprised, Rufus, that no girl
Wants to lay her pretty thigh under yours,
That not even your enticements of silk dresses
And glittering jewels can seduce a single one.
What’s keeping them away is the fatal rumor
That a goat capers in the barnyard of your armpits!
He scares off the poor dears. And no wonder, for
He’s a foul beast: who can blame the pretty maid
Who retches at the thought of bedding with him?
So, either kill the beast that kills the nose
Or quit being surprised when the girls turn tail.
38 THINGS GO HARD
Things go hard for your Catullus,
Hard and way-wearying;
By God, they get worse by the day
and by the hour.
And though an easy task of a few
Lines, what small word of comfort
Have I from you? I’m angry.
Is this how you show your love?
Come, a bit of consolation;
Grieve for me awhile,
Sadder than by Simonides1.
1. A Greek poet known for the melancholy of his poems.
6 SHE’S NO DAINTY FAWN, FLAVIUS
No dainty fawn found grazing at woodlands’
Edge, Flavius, but a thing more toothsome and
Whoresome snatched from the streets is your
New darling, am I right? Sure I am or like
An ass, again, you’d be braying to me about her.
Confess or not, it hardly matters,
For your bed BLARES the news:
What, with soiled sheets and caved-in pillows,
The rank smell of cheap olives and 10-cent
Garlands, the bedcovers heaped on the floor
And the creaking bedposts about to collapse
And you sagging at the knees about to keel over,
Why hide it?
Confide to Catullus’ ear every detail, seemly &
Sordid, and with verse defter than Callimachus’1,
I’ll win you heaven’s blessing.
1. Greatest of the Greek lyric poets; a major influence on Catullus’ poetry.
641 THE PARCAE2
On white couches, the gods & goddesses now
Stretch themselves; abundantly the tables are
Heaped with food, as palsied and swaying
The Parcae begin to chant their oracles.
Gleaming white gowns drape their aged bodies
And fall about their ankles with purple hem
And their snowy heads are scarlet-ribboned
And once again their fingers taking up
Left hand holding the distaff wound with wool,
Right hand extracting fibers, twisted into strands,
Thumb turned downward twirling a spindle
Fixed to a flywheel circling smoothly.
Straggly ends they bite off with their teeth
And the bitten wool sticks to their lips; into
Baskets at their feet drop the soft golden piles.
As they comb the fleece, the Parcae in single
Clear voice pour out a heavenly hymn
That Time shall never prove perfidious. . .
1. Lines 303-323
2. Roman for Greek “Fates”