The blacksmith sun hammered the empty plain
Into a great gold plate: a mere mountain
Wouldn’t withstand that onslaught day in and out.
Bird droppings dropt on bright rock rang like cut
Glass, and a scorpion darted, like a tongue,
Back and forth, about to sting or having stung.
This was the scene of battle; on either side
Of the plain, in ranked rows, the soldiers tried
To clear their minds and concentrate on death –
Not their own but someone else’s valued breath
Brought back like loot. Their shields mirrored the sun,
The sun tipped the head of each javelin
With flame, and in pairs the first line mounted
Chariots drawn by creatures since hunted
To extinction. The reins the driver held
Were painstakingly worked from precious gold,
Silver and lapis lazuli, and where
He drove, his cohort hurled a lighted spear.
By the time the shadows lengthened, cooling
The land like streams of water and pooling
Into darkness, bodies lay everywhere
As if beaten back by the muscular air
Into a varnished age. The scholars dig
Their grave. The dead soldiers’ tactical rig
Spins around a painted wall in a frieze
And still spins, after centuries.