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.