Classic21 May 2018
Time passes slowly through straits of heated air,
and played slowly, viewed closely,
like any great composition, its errors
and quirks, its irregularities and subtle
repetitions, can be teased out, toyed with, tested.
This is what the oracles understood,
and it was easier for them,
locked in a hallucinogenic cave
for all their lives, spitting words
in patterned streams with such awful momentum
that cities fell, fleets clashed, emperors laughed
on funeral pyres and bookshelves bask
in their delicious dust-flavoured epithets.
On a clear, hot day like this,
when memories shift uneasily in the breeze,
and little sparks of half-imagined light
disorient my contemplation of the ceiling,
ancient yellowed voices call like sirens from the rocks.
Slipping from your sheets
and into the sparkling Aegean
or the beaches of Lydia
and then back through the space
between lines of battered text
and into your room again, time seems
not muddled so much as banal,
like some pictographic script which looks
so much more magical when you don’t know
it’s just someone’s tax returns.
So Cyrus becomes Croesus and Croesus
is Christmas and there are Persians carving Turkey
in my dining-room, as is their want.
The daughter of Astyages runs a truly unique
bottle-o on Bell Street and I hear
a friend has contracted the Themistocles overseas.
The chickens outside add their moan
to the lamentations in Corinth, tender memories
of midnight assignations in suburban kitchens
are invaded by Aristophanic men
who want in on the action.
A car alarm breaks the stillness.
You roll onto your side and mutter something empty,
the breeze carries flutes from Bacchic hills
through the sometimes portal of your curtains,
five bells toll in some distant church
and the future, my love, can wait another day.