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gregory emilio / two poems

Regarding The Origins Of Tragedy

“The theater of Dionysus lies below as one looks down from the Acropolis. Much of the seating has disappeared…”
-from Ancient Greek Literature in its Living Context (1968)

Does it matter anymore that I stood there

looking down at those ruins, ouzo from the

night before leaking from my pores, the fossil-

white light mirroring

bleached-out columns, Attic sun like a blade

scraping the dinner plates of antiquity?

Does it matter that I didn’t know I was

looking at what Greeks

called the seeing-place, tragedy born from the

ritual song of a goat ripped to pieces?

Looking back, I think of all the couples who

came before us, stood

broken where we did, not speaking or touching,

draining slowly as stones, the seats vanishing

where ancients went to see their reflections

shattered from afar.


Regarding Lastingness (and Last Meals)

“The snack bar of Regio V resurfaces in its entirety with scenes of still life, food residues, animal bones and victims of the eruption.”
—Archaeological Park of Pompeii, January 2021

People must have been eating when the pumice

started raining down, vast clouds consuming the

sky as precursor to the pyroclastic currents, the flows of

ash and lapilli which froze this moment of heat, encased the catastrophe, captured in

situ the bodies expiring not from being

buried alive, un-

able to breathe, but thermal shock, Vulcan’s red-

hot hammer blow. Frescoes, amphora, bones of a

mouse in a dolium of grains: these are the

things that remain, that

go on giving us fast food for thought. People

came and ate and pointed to the sky and cried

out to the gods. Most were able to escape.

Many had to stay.


A poet and food writer from southern California, Gregory Emilio is the author of the poetry collection Kitchen Apocrypha (Able Muse, 2023). His poems and essays have appeared in Best New Poets, Gastronomica, North American Review, [PANK], The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, and Southern Humanities Review. A mean home cook and avid cyclist, he lives in Atlanta and teaches at Kennesaw State University.

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