Ave…(1984)

“After all, we are not gypsies
living in a green wagon…”      Thomas Mann, Tonio Kröger

Shall I leave you when I wake
to gather up my clothes
and the obligation of another day?

I might contrive to speak
an art around such quick departure,
or smile as if I knew a thing at all.

The heart remains.
A door divides
rooms and loyalties. Just so.

Your eyes are closed to me,
to day, to thought, but in the night
they opened black a universe of joy.

Your arm rests on mine;
your left leg angles over my right.
Shall I wake you when I leave?

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Ave…(1973)

I leave you, standing just
outside the door, a renaissance untouched.
Leaning (to be filled?) you turn.

Your eyes, becoming
modest, lower now.
(suggesting invitation?)

That flame upturning
cooled affection’s smile
stalks my thief, desire,

but civility
rules our day; banality
confines our conversation.

Sarah

Hope and Faith, Joy and Grace
are names assigned to fix a weight
against our living to the pace
of dullness and routine, experienced as fate.
Other names are incantations
to ward away mean expectations,
or desires invoked to claim
some virtue, art or fame.

But Sarah speaks of elder past
of prophets, warriors, kings conceived in rage;
of a mother’s will to cast
a nation through the world, her gift of age;
of hands that worked in desert tents, that grasped
a future from a nomad’s faith, a prod
of laughter that enabled husband, prompted God.

 

Corfu

I think it was September
when I went away
to carry home
the sack of Troy. A wealth
to root you
firmly to our island home,
so near, not yet attained.

Ten years I wandered,
wrecked by wave, God
deaf to my pleas. Troy
sleeps with the fish. (May they eat
its curse!) Good men lie there too.
Hope died with them.

I cannot understand, my son.
Am I not Odysseus? Son of Laertes,
Autolykos, son of Hermes, begging
from his belly. Must I roam
this wide world feral
and abandoned?

Soon the shades surround me.
The sun no longer warms me.
You, at Ithaka, the prize.
The hunt is all I know now.

Dark. Wind. Rain.
Or tears.
Sleep, or death comes,
cold.

I live to hold your face,
to look my fortune in your eyes.

I live.

Ithaka

Father!

Are you real?
Do you come?

Did you war against the fabled Troy?
Know Akilles?
Plot with High King Agamemnon?

Do they lie who say
you were a clever man,
the architect of victory?

Why are you not here
where lesser men consort
to wed Penelope,
where Telemakos
mimes the goatherd?

Am I son of Odysseus, of Hermes,
or born to some base
storyteller? Were you warrior, king,
or wandering minstrel? Tales
are not enough. Deeds, not words,
redeem me. Come or die.

I walk unsure. The sea
whispers. Lies.
Truth is man.
Warrior or minstrel, one is real.

Is the world so wide
you cannot come?

Or do you hunt
another myth to occupy?

Priam

1.

Take, for example, your age.
Do you, in truth, know
thirty today?
It was but yesterday
Hekuba lay. . .

. . . For half
a thousand years
we held
this royal citadel. Free
from Akaean, from Hittite,
free to the wind,
for our horses,
envy of the world.
But what men envy
they would possess. You
have handed them a cause.

Hers is a face,
but a queen’s face.
And that queen kin to the Lion
King himself. Agamemnon sings
your name in his privy:
Paris smooth-tongued
turned to Atreid greed
by a face.

No. Hear.
I am done.
It is late. You
cannot take her back.
You cannot flee.
Honor here. Policy there.
Fate everywhere.

We who built
these walls secure
against Time itself,
now must wait the justice of God,
a mercy of swords,
shrieks of women.
the grief of men,
a bard.

Priam

2.

All
will come
to black vultures.
Pride alone remains.

Eighty
springs my heart recalls.
Eighty
winters hound my feet.
No more.
Let blue Akaeans feed upon my flesh.
Let my house go down to ruin.
Let me go,
not like a goat dragged to slaughter,
but the horse to sacrifice,
consenting.

Give me your arm,
for a time.
Leaning,
I can stand to gaze
across the bay.

There. To the west.
Are those clouds,
do you think,
or sails?

Laocoön

Apollo, hear my silence.

I know my sin before you,
the act unclean.

So many years. We were so young,
Antiope so lovely. Her skin a silk,
her arms embracing, legs encircling
me before your altar.

Have I not served you well?
Do my two sons displease you?
Is it impious to be young?

Tonight
my Trojan masters
bid me offer to Poseidon
that portion which is yours.
Tomorrow
they will order it.
Now they shout
within the smoking halls,
made bold
by common sorcery.
(As if a snake would speak your will!)

Did I not warn them early?
Did I not reprimand them late?

Lord, they do not hear. Will you?
They only see that damned horse
and dream prosperity.

Apollo, your silence deafens me.

So,
I must be the offering.
Then let the sea
disgorge my fate. I serve
my God and love Antiope.