Diana Awaiting her Death in the Colosseum
The body would be devoured and ravened by lions just as she had satiated her appetite with
fish from the Tiber, quail's eggs, pig. The creatures would dismember her. She would be
pierced by fangs, torn, swallowed, taken in and absorbed. It was what it meant to be a
body. It was only the body, not the spirit.
The stadium seats were crammed to capacity with a jostling crowd. Shouts, hoots, jeers,
laughter. She noticed, among the thousands of spectators, a couple who appeared to be
paying no attention to what was going on in the arena. They had their heads together as if
small winds, blowing at their backs, pushed them into each other.
She noticed, too, that the sky was blue, unblemished by clouds. She tried to imagine
the blueness as foundational, the ground floor of God's kingdom. If Christ could walk on
water, a city could fly. There would be a room for her there, in His father's house. A
small, private room with tile to walk on, cool as a pool to the bottoms of her bare feet
and inlaid with a mosaic of semiprecious stones in the shape of fish, which was
Fish from the Tiber.
A spray of blood brushed her cheek as softly as if someone had touched her face with a
rose. Her father had tended the roses at home, coaxing them out of the hot ground.
She swiped at the thickish wetness with her hand, getting blood on her fingertips.
The crowd roared. Like a lion!
From the corner of her eye she could see the iron gates opening, more of the beasts,
starved into rage, entering the arena. It was not God who had ordained death but humans,
with their willfulness and lust to possess and accidental cravings.
She could not bring herself to look around for her parents, for their bodies, broken
Body was not spirit.
She had selected for herself a line of sight through which she could see the blue sky.
And there was the young couple, so intent on each other, so engaged.
She could smell the blood, and it was slick on her fingertips; it was silken as rose
petals. She could hear the screams and prayers, the agonized hollowness of them, as if
they reached her from a distance, fogged and echoey with travel. Blue ribbons of screams.
There was such a heaviness to it all as well: the huge animals, the human carcasses,
the clapping and stomping in the stands. This mayhem, this circus. The stadium seemed to
She fitted her hands together to pray, and the hand with blood on it imprinted the
other. Looking at her hands clasped like that, she remembered her sister, Julia. Julia had
died of fever so long ago that Diana wasn't always sure she had had a sister, except for
the way they had held hands when they ran into the water on vacation. "Oh!"
Julia cried, seeing the ocean for the first time at four. "It's full!"
Diana knelt, then, and began to pray, planning that the last words she would hear would
be those of the Lord who taught us to pray, "Our Father, which art in heaven."
And so many others were in heaven as well. Would Julia be there, she wondered, with red
hair and pretty, smiling mouth open with pleasurehow vividly she remembered her
little sister nowand had she been there since she was a little girl, waiting for
her? Would she catch up with her parents in the same place, later this afternoon?
"Mother, Father," she would cry, leaping over stars to reach them, "I'm
here too!" The thought of how happy they would be to see her made her start to cry.
It was all she ever wanted: for them to be happy. Why was she crying? Was she not grateful
to God for this gift He had conferred on her, this opportunity to please her parents? She
smoothed the tears from her face with the heels of her hands.
Little quail egg, she said to herself, squeezing her eyes shut tight now, a blackness
surrounding, descending, blue sky burnt to blackness, piglet, fishling. For you, such an
adventure is about to begin.