c. 117 BC
My child was found out by our Roman law
And so “consigned to sea,” as is the way
When citizens are born hermaphrodite
And made “different from the human race.”
I had my Cyprian for thirteen years,
Until he was beset by woman’s pains,
Until his breasts began their flowering.
An omen, others said, a monstrous sign,
And though he clung to me, and I to him,
The soldiers dragged my child away from home.
My heart was like a city sown with salt,
Cursed and consecrated to death and grief,
Its people borne away to slavery.
Here is the very spot where I stood watch,
My arm upraised till changed to stars of pain,
The boat dwindling into far distances—
Then a little splash and nothing more,
My numb hand falling like a weight of stone,
As if consigned to plumb a sea of tears.
A skilled stonemason marked the place for me,
Though no one sleeps inside this little tomb
Engraved with Cyprianus—still I kneel
To grace his name with shells and violets.