New Zealand’s free-state poet laureate composes an Ode to the police commissioner

Barbarians at the Gates

So it was the Centurion Andronicus
wrapp’d in a hooded robe,
stole through the slumbering night.
From his coign of vantage on Floor Nine of the Palace,
he gazed down in wonder upon the Army of the Ostrogoths,
their tents and braziers in countless array
across the moonlit plain.

So entranced he was by the mighty host,
he jumped nervously when the husky voice
of the Red Empress spoke directly into his right ear.
“O Centurion, the month grows long,
the moon waxes fat in the heavens,
the last of the summer wine is drunk,
and the hour has come for lopping and rending.”
Centurion Andronicus swallowed.
“The omens are not auspicious, O majesty,”
he demurred.
“The omens are auspicious indeed,”
answered the Empress.
Behind her, Grand Vizier Grantus Robertocus
examined the entrails of a sacrificial fowl.
“It says here that the best time
to embark on a deep clean of the lawn is when
World War Three has broken out, O majesty,”
concurred the Grand Vizier.

From the distance drifted the sound
of Ostrogoths engaged in crystal healing ceremonies
to a soundtrack of Bob Marley.
Centurion Andronicus cleared his throat.
“According to the latest international best practice
for Legionary Operations, de-escalation
is the recommended tactic for Ostrogoth occupation,”
he burbled.
From far below, blood curdling shrieks
floated up from the human sacrifice altar.
The Red Empress drummed her fingers
on the side of her golden throne.
“I concur, Centurion Andronicus.
Prepare the de-escalation javelins,
flaming tar, heavy cavalry and hornets.”
Centurion Andronicus winced at her acid tone.
“It will be messy,” he said.
“It will be,” agreed the Empress.
The Centurion sighed and stood.
“We have one thing in our favour, O Majesty.
Our spies report the Ostrogoth generals
have left the field of battle.”
“Whence to?” queried the frowning Empress.
“They have decamped to the serene Isle of Koru
en route back to their kingdoms,” saith the Centurion,
“And all left to face our heavy cavalry and hornets
are their brave but foolish pawns.”

Thus with heavy heart and heavy tread,
duty to Empire foremost in his heavy head,
Centurion Andronicus sent word from his control bunker
to wreak mighty vengeance on the rebels.
The legionnaires, relentless and grim
marched ‘cross the bloody scene,
betwixt airborne beer cans and reek of pepper spray.
Ostrogoth Lord Leighton made his last stand,
while Ostrogoth Princess Chantelle cried treason.
The Vandal hordes wailed and danced in rage,
but in the long hours of that dread day
fell back, their ranks thinn’d and wither’d
by cruel volleys of standard issue NERF guns.
The inferno devoured tents in fiery doom,
while a lone placard of nightmare gibberish
lay trampled and forlorn in the wretched mud.
Yard by yard, thrust and parry,
Rome claimed victory and vanquished all.

The Little Folk are banished now.
From campsite to marae to street side
they wander and mutter and drive,
but across the lonesome highways
and from the little dank places they seek,
hear their chant and hoot:
We are the rot at the root!
And we can drag down the State.

Victor Billot has previously been moved to write Odes for such as Christopher Luxon, Jacinda Ardern, Brian Tamaki, Willis and Rawnsley, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Duncan Garner, and Garrick Tremain.

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