His hands dipped into
the cold water
one washing the other

– how fine these fingers
used to be –

the slightly yellowed edges
of his woolen wrap dampened,
the purple stripe vivid even
under the sunshade
“where does that purple
come from,” he thinks

someone told him once about
a snail in the ocean
spending its days drinking
salt water
and rocking in the waves
until it was plucked like
a hardshell fruit
and squeezed for its essence
Tyrian purple to stripe
his clothing
or clad Tiberius when
he is in the public’s eye.
That snail is more useful
than any of these people
before me.

“I am innocent of the blood
of this man” he tells
raving the crowd.