Fall 1961 • Vol. XXIII No. 4 PoetryOctober 1, 1961 |

In the Lupanar at Pompeii

There are tracks which belong to wheels Long since turned to air and time. Those are the powerful chariots I follow down cobblestones, Not being dragged, exactly, But not of my own will, either, Going past the flower sellers' And the cindery produce market And the rich man's home, and the house Of the man who kept a dog Set in mosaic. As tourist, but mostly as lecher, I seek out the dwelling of women Who all expect me, still, because They expect anybody who comes. I am ready to pay, and I do, And then go in among them Where on the dark walls of their home They hold their eternal postures, Doing badly-drawn, exacting, Too-willing, wide-eyed things With dry-eyed art. I sit down in one of the rooms Where it happened again and again. I could be in prison, or, dead, Cast down for my sins in a cell Still filled with a terrible motion Like the heaving and sighing of earth To be free of the heat it restrains. I feel in my heart how the heart Of the mountain broke, and the women Fled

Already have an account? Login

Join KR for even more to read.

Register for a free account to read five free pieces a month from our current issue and digital archive.
Register for Free and Read This Piece

Or become a subscriber today and get complete, immediate access to our digital archives at every subscription level.
In 1956, James Dickey resigned his teaching position at The University of Florida when his reading of the poem "The Father's Body" to a local women's group was construed as obscene. He took a position as an advertising copywriter and executive for the McCann-Erickson agency in New York, a position he later described as "selling his soul to the devil in the daytime and buying it back at night." Dickey worked in the advertising business until 1961, when he received a Guggenheim Fellowship that allowed him to move his family to Italy and devote his time to writing poetry.

Read More


Your free registration with Kenyon review incudes access to exclusive content, early access to program registration, and more.


With your support, we’ll continue 
to cultivate talent and publish extraordinary literature from diverse voices around the world.