from AFTER ARGOS
A warm wind crosses the Hellespont
but subtle rather, a breeze hesitating
slips into the long reaches of the afternoon
and the blue margin between two worlds.
And I remember my submission to you;
it was always there, its slow message rides me,
an inclination in my limbs, just let go love,
then hurtling down hill at the tilt of your head.
You’re out there now, a black dot above the splash;
the better swimmer cutting a V, will I ever catch you?
It’s a large body of water and deep enough,
on the other side, in the dark village, we’ll rest.
That’s the trouble, she said, I breathe this element,
but where do you start with a founding myth?
These waves absorb me, drown my secret names,
and the last thing I saw – a golden beast swimming.
With our expansion westward we found the Sikels,
not even peasants, primitives living in ditches;
what they’d do for some pottery and metalwork.
We mapped out the edges, the coastline and inlets,
never what we really did in there for diversion;
the silver sea to the ends of the earth tricked us.
There’s an art to founding a city and an art to forgetting,
our music was in despair, ruined and irrelevant,
even the thought of song scattered to the rim of our lives.
So one day there you are out in the meadow
friends together collecting the pretty narcissi,
counting rows of cabbages down to the river;
you laugh and cast lots for sex, for business.
You wave at the coloured yachts gliding-by,
Life’s Promise, Bright Dawn, perfect names for fun;
and the little rowing boats like breathing
ascend mesmeric into the broad paths of heaven.
Then cataclysm - smashed face down in the dirt,
eye to eye with the roots of irrelevant plants,
their little white teeth snapping underground;
you see the hole in the dark heart of everything.
Of course this is Persephone’s practiced song;
as the lights burn low in our buried gardens
and memory flits from gate to gate in rounds,
we’re all singing - no we’ll not come back again.
Hermes donned his cloak, primed his sandals
and lifted the baby onto his shoulders;
for the rest they were naked, at ease.
The baby reached for the cluster of grapes,
ready to drink a river and take possession;
but where were they going at such speed?
Though there was talk of escape and rescue,
looking at them you sensed the baby held sway,
a radiant beam trailing across the blue.
. . .
Hermes was rescuing the twice-born Dionysus from divine slaughter. Some of the dazzling wonder of Praxiteles’ statue is the baby’s innocence of this circumstance and of his own growing power. Compiling the various versions of their journey would make the sky look like an air traffic control screen at the height of summer. The flight is the point, and a youth rescuing a baby, a god always arriving – a double promise of life.
So another day, and there you are in the meadow,
not particularly aware of the archetypal frame,
again a flower picking scene, this time by the sea;
normality at rest in the shadow of father’s house.
The white event tiptoed in suggesting dressage,
his mighty breath barely stirring the daisies;
oh feel his soft nose, his chains of dribble stiffening,
an electric shiver ignites his muscled flanks.
Hold on girl, he groaned, plunging up and down,
we might hit turbid water the way we’re going;
see that island there floating free in the blue,
between Asia and your name we’re surely bound.
Once on land Europa never looked back at all;
subsequent events proved she had a strong stomach
- and a good deal of curiosity: she became a queen,
eyes wide she surveyed the court and liked it.
Copyright Kelvin Corcoran 2014
Kelvin Corcoran’s work came to prominence with his first book Robin Hood in the Dark Ages in 1985. Nine subsequent collections have been enthusiastically received and his work has been anthologised in the UK and USA. The sequence Helen Mania was made a Poetry Book Society choice. His New and Selected Poems is now available from Shearsman Books along with two major collections, Backward Turning Sea (2008) and Hotel Shadow (20100). For The Greek Spring, a selection of Kelvin Corcoran’s poetry about Greece was published in 2013. The Writing Occurs As Song: A Kelvin Corcoran Reader, edited by Andy Brown was published in 2014. Kelvin Corcoran was published in the original 1980 print issue of Molly Bloom and in the first online edition: see here.