Rachel Becker


At the museum with my father, 
my small rain boots echoed, 
each step a ripple of sound,
to where Caligula presided over a pool. 

I always tossed a penny in, watched it plunge. 

Caligula, armless, reached out for an embrace, 
his patrician boots, marble, mid-stride. 
My father’s arms stayed slack by his side. 
I hoped he’d yank me back from the edge 
of the fountain where I wished to wade, 
wished his arms the holding kind. For a long time, 

I thought Caligula the fountain’s god,
or at least, as good as a penny’s plash 
into water and a wish. The water skimmed 
over the measures of his cruelty. 

How was I to know he donned lion skin
like Hercules, danced naked as Mercury,
or crowned himself sun and god,
tortured the already condemned. 

Sometimes, my father asked,

Want something to really cry about?

Like Caligula, he’s now an echo
in an empty room: forever blank-eyed, 
baby-faced, alone. 

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Rachel Becker’s poems most recently appear or are forthcoming in Heavy Feather Review, New World Writing Quarterly, Barely South Review, Tiny Spoon, Ghost City ReviewThe ShorePortland ReviewTusculum Review, and RHINO. A sometimes-correspondent for the Boston Globe, she teaches high school English and Creative Writing in Newton, MA. She lives in Boston but hails from Richmond, VA.