I. Setting Out
Then did they lift their heads,
swung back the gates, feet falling before
the echoes had sunk into the hills;
and we were with them too: their many
journeys on keel-cut sea to wheel-cut
isles. The full-bellied waves bore us
through the clanging straits and canvas tore.
This the beginning:
the soul-churned sea, bright burning
buckler and saving mirror ever
diverting our eyes from what we should
not see; there the head is severed
in reflected light, backward slash
at the moment of mutating. Sea-dark
And this too a beginning:
Cythera then, standing on the bleeding
womb, looks out, and we wonder: can she
see us? The glass-grey eyes, can they
love us as we believe we love?
they strode up the beach close where
the land falls back to desert, and were
not seen, too strange to register, too
gaudy in all that light.
And there too:
close by the high cone tor the silver-plumed
ocean runs her hand on pebbles while
an apostle from the east strode up the beach
and with a thrust his staff broke
to a petal-washed, dark-days’ tree.
We were with them too, gazing out
from Sunion, with every Iphegenia
waiting for a sea wind; even too on Iona
singing with frosty breath to Adonai,
the Lord risen high round the rim
of the edgeless sea. Amor tecum, Adoni!
She loved you too. The goddess of the islands
watched your golden foot dazzle into silver
drops the jealous black, angry as acid sea.
Women bewailed you on Alexandria’s shores,
in Athens they planted blood-flowers
And this too a beginning.
Twin alphas overlaid are seen as one;
no one would have thought it a love-knot.
Then up from the grinding waves to wait:
Many the flash-points spark on islands
cut diamond-keen through mist,
the moment multiplying is with us still.
And we differ as finches differ, chirruping
our chants on branches that lead down
to plankton-grained, wanderer-filled sea.