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22 September 2013

Cicero's girl

Now, as in Tullias tombe, one lamp burnt cleare,
Unchang'd for fifteene hundred yeare,
May these love-lamps we here enshrine,
In warmth, light, lasting, equall the divine
                                                -John Donne

By Tullia’s grave

That gray and cold afternoon I saw him standing by her tomb, his hair disheveled, his clothes dirty, his eyes like rocks.  Cicero, I called out from my carriage as we came nearer.  No answer, though I could see his lips moving.  Citizen, I called out, drawing nearer still.  The sun was peeking out from behind a cloud, and a shaft of light poured down like a waterfall over the great man.  His hands hung at his sides, his fingers occasionally clutching into fists and then straightening out again, more reflex than willed motion.  His feet were bare and clean.  He remained still and unresponsive, his lips, those lips that had fought battles in court and before the senate, that had stood against Caesar’s legions with unmatched eloquence and grace, moved like sluggish caterpillars as he mumbled to himself.  When we pulled up along side him, I signaled and we stopped.  Cicero, I whispered.  His head moved, a twitch of recognition, and then nothing.  The wind, gusting until then, dropped at that moment, and I heard the words of the most powerful orator to ever draw breathe in our empire:
Tullia, my girl.  Tullia.  Tulliolla.  My girl.  My flower.  Tullia.
He spoke as one speaks to the gods.  He was at that moment simply Cicero, father.

R. R. Shea

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