In the long room hard by a street of marble cutters
they have taken turns submerged in a large pithos of greasy water,
and line the wet benches naked and gritty with fine dust
from the stonecutters’ work.
Humidity is flavored with cypress and sweetgum
and voices rise and fall between the excitement of dice.
Just beyond the offing dark and moonlit
the holy sails glide home from Delos.
So much for his defense when they return.
He has seen the cistern in a further room
full of terracotta shards still wet with hemlock,
and more than once has tried overhearing from his own bed
the sounds one makes from having sipped their death.
He is ashamed to have listened with so much attention,
and sorry, too, for the sense of comfort he’s found
in the relative quiet, almost casual talk
before the breaking of the clay cup.