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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

the blood.

     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? 

And here:

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

on rooftops.

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.