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On Romulus, While Abel Sleeps [A Chthonic Song.]

On Romulus, While Abel Sleeps [A Chthonic Song.]

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On Romulus, While Abel Sleeps [A Chthonic Song.]

Justin Limoli


I told you how I blamed you for so much,

your fist blooming into a prismed silence, a spectral call

for quiet, cheering from the chorus as your fist anoints

liquid mercury to my lips, the sign to all that I have

succumbed to your weight, wordless.


Brother, if you called for purple, I would give you amethyst

from my mouth; if blue, water and a sail.


Guided by Dante, Freud, and a pantheon of other literary and mythical figures, Justin Limoli travels to hell and back in this new play about brotherhood, loss, and what it means to keep writing when all you write about is grief. A stand-alone work as well as a follow-up to Bloodletting in Minor Scales [A Canvas in Arms.], Limoli's latest blurs the intersection of play and poetry even further, creating something both beautiful and wholly unique in the process.


Full-length, Poets' Theatre, Nonfiction

Cast: Even More than Last Time

Cover design by David Watt



On Romulus, While Abel Sleeps is a powerful reminder—both sobering and surreal—that for every Abel there's a Cain, for every Remus, a Romulus. In an ever-morphing landscape of melting clocks, this chthonic song achieves something extraordinary, tuning our ear to the blood that cries out to all of us, since time immemorial, from underground.

—Adam Seelig


We've come to an impasse, Justin. I loved reading On Romulus and I hate myself for it. Everything about this book caused you so much pain. I was knocked over by your words & your music & the dreamy logic of your poetics. I felt crushed by your touching surrealism; I felt crushed by The Can. Justin, Bloodletting made me cry, and this sequel is just as sharp. What have they done to us poets, so that we should compulsively mine tragedy for art? That we should make ourselves so vulnerable? I feel guilty for loving this bloodied book, but how couldn't I? It is truly one of the best things I've ever read.

—M. Forajter


On Romulus, While Abel Sleeps [A Chthonic Song.] is a tragicomedy of multiple errors, a lyric tragedy of smart-ass animated objects, a subverted surreality of non-eventual non-catharsis, a mythopoetic mitochondrial masterpiece, a map, a magic, a moon, and a staggeringly heartbreaking follow-up to Justin Limoli's first book, Bloodletting in Minor Scales [A Canvas in Arms.]. I was entranced once again by the outrageous interplay among Limoli's characters—both living and inanimate. I was spellbound by his language play, offbeat humor, and his inevitably heroic quest for truth and resolution. This is a rare, vulnerable, crazily-creative, journey to (self) love and forgiveness. I recommend it to aficionados of theater and poetry, both and all. It is unforgettable.

—Maureen Seaton


It takes every last drop of Justin Limoli's blood, humor ("Blood being Blood, well, bleeds"), gall, and virtuosity to re-take the stage of his Freudian Mental Ward. The result is poetry, a remarkable poetics (stated and applied), and a unique sequel—especially miraculous because it's so familiar. "Suffering always repeats itself," as his Hera says. Bloodletting was a rush—this wrings out by force of will what bears repeating: the endlessly spiraling "why?" trauma importunes. With petulance to be expected in such a rehab from hell, he talks smack with gods and Great Poets. Yet, from "soiled cries," his insistent art produces a new orchid hybrid. Line of dialogue from Dear Brother the addict, with stage direction: "[Takes a syringe full of alphabet soup.] Not guilty."

—Magus Magnus

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