Nero’s Torches (Henryk Siemiradzki, 1876)
Garlands of flowers spiral posts
topped by Christians wrapped in oil-soaked
braids of straw.
Painting right, the eye is pulled
by yellow sparks lifted by a slave
on a ladder.
Painting left, naked slave girls
bend round buttocks over marble balustrades
one level below Roman nobles
in white togas and purple gowns
watching the row of men and women
trussed to burn.
Evening light flows from purpling sky
in soft brush strokes.
You can almost smell the jasmine.