An Online Literature and Art Journal

Balance of Trade

Winner of Editor’s Choice Award for Poetry

By: Roberta Feins

When Rome first traded with Gaul,
wine was imported to Provence in ships.
Off-loaded at Narbonne, packed north by mule,
besotted barbarians drank the potion undiluted.

At first, one amphora – long-necked,
arms akimbo, bearing a quadrantal
of vintage too poor to drink in Rome –
could be traded for one young boy.

Oared galleys swallowed the youth,
destined to tend Cycladic vineyards,
to eat bitter olives, porridge with salt.
By the end of the first century,

wine mixed with honey was doled out
at the Circus, poured out
to Gods in their temples, to ensure
power. Demand was so great,

vines were planted on Provencal hills.
Ripe incarnations of Occitan sun
were trampled in vats. Thousands of wagons
hauled big-bellied urns of red clay

from the hills to the sea.
While galleys rushed toward Rome,
amphorae leaned together in the hold,
braced to birth another kind of slavery.


Roberta Feins received her MFA in poetry in 2007 from New England College. Her poems have been published in Five AM, Antioch Review, The Cortland Review and The Gettysburg Review, among others. Her chapbook Something Like a River, was published by Moon Path Press in 2013. Roberta edits the e-zine Switched On Gutenberg (