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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 1: January 2020
Poem: 98 words
Author’s Note: 51 words
By Lisa Shulman

Nero Tells All

I smelled the smoke first—
wood fire wafting on the wind 

then the sky darkened 
like the angry face of Jove 

and bright spears of flame 
shot to the heavens. 

Why look to me? 
It was not I 
who sparked the blaze. 

Blame those others 
with their foreign ways, 
and the fools who built 
their hovels out of wood. 

When the refugees 
from the city drew near 

with their shrieks and moans, 
their stink of charred flesh 

I barred the door 
and taking the fiddle from the table 

as was my habit 
began to play. 

Author’s Note: This poem refers to details of the legend (which Nero might have called “alternative facts”). Historians place Nero miles from the fire, some say that he offered his palace as shelter, and he played a type of lyre, given that the fiddle was not invented for another 400 years.

Lisa Shulman
Issue 1, January 2020

is the author of four picture books for children, as well as fiction, poetry, and non-fiction for adults. Her recent work has appeared in California Quarterly, KYSO Flash, I’ll Take This Word and Make It Mine, and Digging Our Poetic Roots; has been performed by Off the Page Readers Theater; and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Lisa lives in Northern California.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

At the Pacific Air Museum, a prose poem in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019); nominated for The Best Small Fictions 2020

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