Gladiator – Nathan Dennis

I anoint my body in cold pressed oil,
My burned skin glistens in the firelight
Where I burn my ruminations to ash,
And choke myself down by the dry spoonful,
Girding my organs with memory fat;
Armor serves only to encumber me.

Naked, I kneel before my private gods.
My performance, my honest sacrifice:
Blood for a chance at being remembered.
The gates rattle open; I draw my blade
And enter from firelight to eyelight
Of vultures that feast on us carrion:

Spectators, who must see pain to feel pain.
Who yearn to hold the scars that I have borne
As their war wounds to embrace and discard,
Who crane to glimpse, reflected ‘gainst the oil,
Scarflashes of a pain written prologue:
Credits of cuts I choose to bleed again

For you: O audience, my emperors.
See me maim myself for your sweet pleasure,
For your approval; please cheer for my blood.
Please cry as I hold my blade at my throat.
Please let the agony of my struggle,
Satiate you enough to weep mercy.


Nathan Dennis is a Manhattan based playwright and poet of Floridian extraction. He holds a BFA from Tisch, NYU. He has been published in Punchdrunk Press, The Cabinet of Heed, and The Magnolia Review. His most recent play, Circle of Shit, was produced at Dixon Place in March, 2019.

The Cabinet Of Heed Issue 28 Contents Link

Image via Pixabay

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