Peter J. King
Recollections of a Byzantine Official

                                             (after K.P. Kavafis)

Symeon the Logothetis          stood up from his desk
and stretched; his neck          was stiff, his eyes
were sore and gritty,          and his stomach rumbled.
He had spent the morning          calculating soldiers’ pay,
and tracking down corruption          in the purchase
of Greek fire, and now          he needed food and rest.

He strolled down to the Neoríon,          joined the throng that bustled
through the gates, and bought          some fresh-baked bread
and Cretan cheese and wine          at a taverna on the harbour front.
A regular, he nodded greetings          to the sailors, shipwrights,
sutlers, and sawyers passing by,          and one or two received
a warmer, secret smile. Refreshed,          he strode more briskly
back to where his desk was waiting;          in the quiet of the Strategeíon
(for the staff were mostly napping          through the drowsy afternoon)
he laid out all his writing tools          and his unfinished Chronicle.

Sighing, then, he set to work          where he’d left off
the day before: the reign          of Romanós Lekapenós,
whose dark and liquid eyes          he still remembered,
gazing into his across a cushion          of embroidered silk.