by MICHAEL SALCMAN
Caesar’s Last Breath
—Enrico Fermi (1901-1954)
On the Ides of March, great Caesar stabbed to death
by friends, expelled his final breath
in exclamation, an accusation I’m forced to share
by Fermi’s calculation each time I respire in joy or despair
an atom of the cry my Mother gave in giving me birth
or later, my Father’s shout at exchanging the earth
beneath our feet, from blooded Old World to New.
What holds the star-winged atoms of our bones but the glue
of universal speech, the pneuma of life?
Each day exchanges the oxygen of kings with child and wife,
the lips of long gone fiends exclaim with those in doubt
or pray in unison with the most devout.
Less a calculus of breath than perverted fate
how often we exhale love and fill our lungs with hate.
Last updated September 16, 2011