Dido, Queen of Carthage

by Juliet Butcher

varium et mutabile semper femina (Aeneid IV.569-70)

Whistle-wet and wind-whipped and
smarting with salt,
the air bursts lungs –
clean lungs, lungs
clear and full –
and cuts,
slicing quick across face,
stinging stiff and
garrotte-sharp like the cords of a ship,
as she stands on the citadel and watches.

Gleaming sky over a
big blue sea,
the polished waves billow
with linen –
roaring sails, desperate to leave –
and in the throbbing heat the scene vibrates
with its foreign tongue and the stench of fish,
and, through it all, the shimmering disbelief:
all those ant-men swarming on the sand-pit sand,
as she stands on the citadel and watches.

There on that Libyan coastline,
as breezy gods change their fatal minds,
marriage shattered, reputation in tatters,
jagged rejection
burrows like a corkscrew
through springing flesh until –
no tears, no, Writer, don’t You hide –
the hour brings the ironclad turn of the tides,
and she makes her plans and her final goodbyes, and she starts to
as she stands on the citadel and watches.


The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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