Writings / Poetry

The Most Lamentable Roman Tragedy of Titus Andronicus 

George Elliot Clarke

(for Gérard Étienne)

Squalls of rusted trumpet and busted sax.
Tribunes and Senators pile down a staircase
Of white marble steps and chrome railings.

Enter below Saturninus and his psychopaths at one door,
And Bassianus and his cut-throats at the other,
Hefting big bass drums and bloody flags.

Marcus, from a balcony, hands down the gemmed crown.
Exeunt his Soldiers, craving rum as strong as oysters.
Havoc of trumpet.
They storm the Senate House to slurp wine.

Enter a Police Captain, Irish, liquored up, cussing.
Queen Tamora, glittering, kneels.

Exeunt Titus’ sons with Alarbus, a nobody, invisible.
Tamora, glimmering, rises, cockroach-insidious.

Rally the Boys of Titus Andronicus again.
Squawk saxophone, then deposit a gleaming coffin in the tomb
Safe from unruly, carnivorous worms.

(The columns of the Senate –
Like columns of numbers –
Hide columns of soldiers.)

Enter Lavinia, lithe, vinegary virgin.
Riviera looks, Sicilian stylish.
She vogues her way towards the imperial throne,
But spurns the tattooed Emperor’s looks.
He sighs spitefully.
His glazed-eye gaze drags across her dugs.

See Marcus now, sullen, brooding, below.

A saffron robe sanctifies Saturninus.
Laurels instantly style him Caesar.

A long excitement of piano until rulers descend, satisfied.
Titus’ sword and prisoners are passed to Saturninus:
Leeches, sows, accountants, his de facto harem.
Boom brass trumpets and tom-toms.

Exeunt omnes – except Aaron the Moor.
Sound of fingers popping.

The Andronici slide one hacked-up son into a marble sheath.
Their tempers grind against each other.

Blast Marine Corps trumpets.
Exeunt all except the Moor,
Him giggling at “Whitey.”

Enter Titus Andronicus and his three breathing sons,
Four celestial profiles facing glory.

Hear hounds, then horns, in a dinning peal.

Arrives Aaron, alone, as usual:
The traitorous black intellectual with the money-bag.
He vows “Bassanius will be the sieve of two sadists.
Lavinia will see her mouth spilling blood.”

Soon, Bassanius’ baritone pleas dribble into his beard,
While two brothers’ swords dice him up.

Next, Tamora’s cunt-hunting sons snatch up Lavinia bodily,
Dirtily slipping one hand between her legs.
One tumbles her, invades her mouth.
Both stick their obscene spikes to the bitch.

Demetrius and Chiron carnally enjoy the sobbing Lavinia,
Spunking her sex-thing,
Atop fianc_ Bassianus’s draining corpse.

Lavinia wants to puke.
Her voice croaks like a spitted hog’s.
She’d clawed and snarled and spat and bitten,
But had only pissed off her rigid violators,
Who writhed upon her – like lice, colonizing her skin.

After mocking and soiling Bassianus like a dog,
Demetrius dumps the well-punctured body
Into a pit.
Chuckling, the boys exeunt, tugging the girl.
They handle her like dry dirt.

Plummets into the gash, another Andronicus.
Plops into the slash, another Andronicus.

Saturninus’s bootlickers haul Quintus, Martius,
And the skewered Bassianus from the abyss.

One sword’s hacked him open from anus to nape.

Lavinia opens her mouth,
The ashamed oval of her lips,
And red ribbons fly out.

An iguana creeps – dark sunlight – across grey stones.

Enter the Tribunes as Judges and the Senators,
With Titus’s two convicted assassin-sons, Quintus, Martius,
Chained and shackled down like death-row killers.

They pass to the oasis of execution –
A guillotine, fly-jewelled skulls jumbled about –
With Titus running alongside, begging, fawning,
“Saturninus, spare an old soldier’s sons.”

Enter Lucius with his sword held aloft.
Impotent, he kneels.

About The Author


George Elliott Clarke is arguably one of Canada’s most accomplished poets. He has several ground-breaking verse and dramatic poetry collections. He was recently inducted into the Order of Canada.

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