The buzzards stand on blistered rock
Where once defeated vessels burnt,
Two thousand summers’ storms and dust
Have left the empire’s vainest crushed.
Parades of egrets pass this way,
Their standing plumes like Ptolemy’s.
Where victors strut the herons halt,
And dart to pick the crusted salt.
The shallows of the gulf spread east
Where silver shoals entrap the sun,
And let it slip in golden shame,
As Cleopatra’s final flame.
The ochre soil and crumbled walls:
Once palace, temples, victory halls.