(plagued thebes: sanity’s dying)

bent before the altars in your city
the ash sleeps silent
in priest-like silhouettes.
cinder shadows rest
below the duvets, and
somewhere someone hacks
their gurgled lung, all
a carcass from their stomach, it’s
this plague. they say (you hear
them say in every breath) they say
(you watch them say in every dream) they say …
apollo’s seeking vengeance for his death(somewhere, you and he-
the city is your city like the echo of your city
is the swaying of the sea, plagued
by memory or men you see
plunging to the depths(deaths) you
do not need to sleep to witness nightmare. still,
and he-(, blood rises
in my throat like
blind mercury,
consciousness stopmotion.
his carcass forms the ashes
in my breath, my two pupils
deep like night-times in their shade, I
do not need to sleep to witness nightmare.
nor can I.

Felix Stokes studies Classics at Brasenose College, University of Oxford.

This is the winning piece (category ‘poetry’) in the Oxford Scientist’s Creative Competition for Trinity Term 2020, theme ‘viral’. The judging panel consisted of the senior editorial team at the time of the competition.