Joan Colby

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In the year 27 BC, on this day
The name Augustus (the exalted one) was conferred
On Octavian, heir of Julius Caesar.
After the defeat of Marc Antony, Octavian
Presided over Rome’s magnificent expansion. Died
And became a God.

In the year 378, on this day
Fire is Born (erroneously translated as Smoking Frog) marched
Into the great city of Tikal
To overthrow the old monuments and decapitate
Great Jaguar Paw according to Stela 31
Deciphered in the year 2000,

In the year 1547, on this day
Ivan the Terrible was crowned Tsar.
As a boy he tortured his pets, as a man, his boyars.
He offered prayers for the thousands of souls
He sent in agony heavenwards.

In the year, 1909, on this day
Shackleton located the magnetic South Pole.
His Nimrod Expedition famous for
Its Manchurian ponies, an unsuccessful ruse
In an icescape. Though he failed
To reach the Pole itself,
He was knighted and in his own defense, said
“Better a live donkey, than a dead lion.”

In the year, 1919, on this day
Prohibition was enacted in the USA, giving rise
To the Roaring Twenties, flappers in rolled stockings,
Speakeasies, bathtub gin, bootleggers,
Al Capone, Scott and Zelda.

In the year, 1945, on this day
Hitler went underground, never again to rise
In the pure Aryan atmosphere
Of his worst dream. Later that spring he
Drank tea with Eva and caressed
His Shepherd Blondi. The gramophone played
“Red Roses Bring You Happiness”.
Russians at the gates, he cried “I have been
Betrayed by everyone I trusted.”
Then: “What does it mean: fight?”
Then: “Is Paris burning?”
The wedding vows, the vainglorious will,
Prussic acid, the Walther pistol.

In the year, 1973, on this day
This day was declared to be
National Nothing Day, its goal
“to provide Americans with one national day
when they can just sit without celebrating,
observing or honoring anything.”


Joan Colby's 14th book of poetry, The Wingback Chair, will be published by FutureCycle Press this fall. A chapbook, Bittersweet, is just out from Main Street Rag Press. One of her poems is a winner of the 2014 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She is associate editor of both the Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press.