The barbarians are at the gate –

except there are no more gates.

The child emperor has failed the Eternal City

sitting and playing with his cock while

Alaric and his vandals prepare to rob us blind.

We are blind.

I called for the bishops to meet me here.

The great bronze doors opened just wide enough

to let single men through, and no more.

The word from the Vigiles Urbani is that the citizens,

slaves, and others want to pray AND make sacrifices

to the old gods.

I have only ever lived my life as a Christian,

but I have seen the statue of Victory in the Senate,

before Theodosius took her down.

She had large golden wings, a bit tarnished at the tips,

alabaster skin. The smile the Greeks always

carved on their women, enigmatic there in the flickering light

of the lamps.

Her breasts were bared. She was victorious and glorious.

I saw why people kneeled.

But our Lord knows all and sees all.

Our prayers are heard – even if they are unanswered.

But a cold block of stone, a golden imp,

a horny wine-demon? None of them can hear.

The bishops talk amongst themselves

there is so much fear in the city.

The representative of the Vigiles asks again

if I would give permission for the old rites

to be performed.

Surely, if it prevents a panic, those so inclined

can do them in private. But the Church will never

permit public adoration of idols.

Never. Never. Never.

Let the barbarians come, for the Lord is my shepherd.

I shall not want.

Nor too shall the people of Rome.