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The death of Polycrates.

The sun mounts over bare hills Asian before it is Greek. From here one can see where the tyrant was crucified on the Persian shore opposite. He writhed like a snake nailed to a post. Some of his Greeks no doubt watched and some, lighting fires, rejoiced. Polycrates could see from where he hung the city he had ruled the strong walls of the harbor the great aqueduct the goddess' temple that were all wonders of the world in that simple time, so impressed with feats of stone. It was all there before him, all he had built, reared again in the shimmer of his agony. Who kills a king is damned into immortality who kills a tyrant shares his shabby end. Alexander came and cleansed the coast and Romans, Goths, Venetians, Turks the tyrant's ruins peep out now between the summer villas and his name, once inscribed in marble, sells postcards and plastic souvenirs. But still the question nags: did this man die well? Did the animal reclaim him or did power hold sway outstaring its fate and the twisted flesh become its own monument stone with the stone it had raised to glory? But no one remembers a tyrant well or thinks the least good of him and no stone speaks all it knows.
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Author:Zaller, Robert
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:May 1, 1993
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