March 2022

Back to Issue 11

The Security Guard

By Angela Costi

for Andrew Z, 1965-2022


Before he died, he was remonstrating through his muscles

the tendons the sinews the veins of valour

all those years of guarding grand doors

fending off slurs and blades made him grow

strength to fight like a Spartan, naked, unmasked                    


                                                            The Spartans attacked at the height of a plague

                                                            while Athens was swollen with protest, both rich

                                                            and poor, pious and sceptic, silent and loud, inhaled

                                                            each other’s dread, doctors warned of close quarters

                                                            as symptoms outwitted doors and windows


Unlike his wife, he buried his symptoms in films

of cats fighting dogs, flags shouting from Everest,

the Moon and Mars, a bruised and battered Rocky

running up those steps built for old people to rest,

and men in their 50s swapping coffee for vinegar


                                                            No oxycrat made of honeyed-vinegar stopped

                                                            heats in the head as high-ranking Athenian men

                                                            dropped on pyres quicker than Spartans, who were

                                                            blamed for poisoning wells, bribing oracles,

                                                            sleeping with Apollo, who had bodies made of steel


His body withstood the gym’s fatter steel, he was

the protector of puny cousins, like me, when we danced

in a swarm of circles, he stood still with breath unphased

as fools stumbled onto his chest. He was also a gentleman,

when Hypoxemia finally came tapping, he opened the door.