When the Emperor Insanus Hosted Banquets

by Harrison Fisher

Ulpiano Checa, “A Banquet in Nero’s palace” (circa 1910)

Let Our Minds Soar, the Slogan of the Games

When the Emperor Insanus—
from whose name we derive
“insane”—hosted banquets to
celebrate victories, he would haul
ten Gauls out of confinement to use

as communal serving bowls for
his legendary Adriatic chowder,
but it was his Headless Olympics,
in which contestants performed
amazing feats of strength and
endurance in competition

after their heads were cut off
that stand as the pinnacle of all
his rigorous explorations of man’s
inhumanity to man. But . . .
that chowder! Ten Gauls were

stretched out on tables like canvas,
hollowed out in the middle, then
filled with boiling milk,
potatoes, herbs, and clams,
and the mixture stirred all day.
This was the legacy of Insanus:

a scheme half white, half
red, and pink all over,
surviving to this day in our
modern countenance of
Long Island clam chowder.



religion was “das Opium des Volkes.”
Then uninhibited,
irrational consumerism
was the opiate of the masses.
Then opioids became the opium of the people,
which was a near match.

I learned
to feel silly
about my time in the French Foreign Legion,
fighting Berbers in the Atlas Mountains.

              Then virtual reality’s inter-genital
outreach was revealed as simple snare to plasma bath.
The final transubstantiation
of the human-meatschleim
came, in the end,
as dead-end panspermian diaspora, each of us
catapulted to our own world,

billions of us
to billions
of individual, airless worlds, so that
our masters could finally dine alone.

About the author

Harrison Fisher was born in New York City in 1954. He received his M.A. from the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University in 1976 and held an NEA fellowship in poetry in 1978. He has published twelve collections of poems, four of them book-length: Curtains for You (1980), Blank Like Me (1980), UHFO (1982), and Poematics of the Hyperbloody Real (2000). In 2023, he has had new poems appear in Amsterdam Review, Apocalypse Confidential, Misfitmagazine, Otoliths, #Ranger, and other magazines. He currently lives in upstate New York.

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