XLIX / Inverse Proportion
transl. Alex MacKeith

You can say things like
Morally unserious
Regarding grandsons
Of dead aristocrats.

Count them up. Too many.
Few here go untitled so
Quote me some after
Everything else. I mean God

You could step into years!
Thank you is too much.
There's attrition just in saying
It. The rubble's at your feet.

Latin drives to masculine
By default, so the worst
Of poets is a he, whose
Adjective does not agree.

And if he's the worst then
She's the best; she's you,
Who has the worst of
Poets as her biggest fan.

The gap between theory
And practice is a crack
In the pavement where
Billions live.

Alex MacKeith is a writer from London. His first work for theatre, School Play, ran at the Southwark Playhouse in 2017 and was published by Oberon Books. His debut feature screenplay, The Lesson, premiered at the Tribeca Festival in June 2023 before an international release. His prose has been published in HotShoe Magazine, and as a stand-up comedian he won the UK's 2020 Musical Comedy Awards, has been a semi-finalist in the BBC New Comedy Awards, and took a sell-out solo show, Thanks for Listening, to the Edinburgh Festival in 2022. He has taught Classics in London and has an MPhil in Classical Literature from Cambridge University.



Disertissime Romuli nepotum,
quot sunt quotque fuere, Marce Tulli,
quotque post aliis erunt in annis,
gratias tibi maximas Catullus
agit pessimus omnium poeta,
tanto pessimus omnium poeta
quanto tu optimus omnium patronus.

Catullus, in full Gaius Valerius Catullus, born c. 84 BCE—died c. 54 BCE was a Roman poet whose expressions of love and hatred are considered some of the finest lyric poetry of ancient Rome. In twenty-five of his poems he speaks of his love for a woman he calls Lesbia, whose identity is uncertain. Other poems by Catullus are outbursts of contempt for Julius Caesar and others.

Read Alex MacKeith on translating Catullus.

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