for Justin Clemens

Love begins where politics ends.

Alain Badiou


I caressed my beloved

with virtuous hands. Chastity


implied justice

in a world corrupted by desire


for anything other than the truth

of equality. She withdrew


her sigh, redirected it

at the tumbrel beneath our window


on its way to the machine

of purgation. The Guillotine


never my idea

of just punishment. She knows this


won’t deter my enemies

from shouting me down, smashing


my jaw, feeding my neck

into the lunette. And I know


she’ll be fetishised, free

to sip champagne at the salons


with ennobled courtesans.

And I know I’ll see this


as they hold my head aloft

to drip blood on my body


my mother, a poor woman

wan, beautiful like her


dying in childbirth, my father

repulsed by grief, leaving us


at the mercy of destiny. I tried

to change that, refused bribes,


carnality and I admired only roses

grown in a soil sated by the blood


of the corruptible. Yes, I grew

fond of the beheadings. When


I’m headless, cadaver, rotten

will she, my beloved, remember me


for my virtue, or for my terror?


Originally published in Ashes in the Air, by University of Queensland Press.