Tony Demarest

 

Ariadne

Long before he left you on the white beach

of Naxos, there had been dreams: not kind

ones of bird hearts and roasted oxen, but

those of brotherly howls and beating swords.

 

You ignored them.

 

And still they came to you in the bath,

in the night, when even the crow had closed

up shop and sought the tree far from

the forestís dark, where an arc of moon

 

could light the tips of waves.

 

You went anyway, of course; sailed off in

his black-sailed ship, lost only in the stars

you had conjured to point to nothing less

than an ideal time filled with him:

 

his leaving was not a thought.

 

You slept among dreams of horns and screams;

the paternal blood and maternal lust

seeped out onto the sheets. A brotherís cry:

steeled, cold, endless as the paths that led

 

a lover to your sin.

 

Then off you went, the sail filled with

Athensí wind. But here where you stopped

amid the oldest coral, the oldest

lie is told. And when you wake, you still

 

believe that heís your man.

 

The wind turns cold and waves rise in

anger: heís gone. No words written, no

token of starfish and shells: gone.

On the seam of sea and sky the sail

 

flutters and fills. Gone.
 

And you walk the white beach, stepping in prints

left by the dancers once dying, now alive;

the lapping of water at your feet

neither cool nor purging, chills the heart

 

of the shipwrecked saint.

 

Your dreams are filled with gods;

your heart with urchin spines.

Look seaward and weep with

the wind that whips your trust:

 

he has left. Thatís all.

 

Two thousand years and the sand gives

up nothing but the idea of the lost:

bones, lust, greed, fame.

Sunlight beats upon the white beach-

 

and still, heís gone.

 

 

Helen

 

I do not blame the mirror, a gift from

my husbandís brother; it never gave in

its triple brass finish, the fire on

the walls, or echoed the wailing of the

mothers and children- all put to the sword

on my behalf.

                        I do not blame the gods

for what I wished for: the wife of a rough

king whose body is as coarse as the boar

he loves to hunt- no, I have done what I

have to feel with my hands and heart what I

dream of, still in these rude winters of Sparta:

 

a childlike sigh, wafting through linen

curtains, riding on the soft crests of smooth

seas, ending in my ear carried by a

breath so sweet. The taut body that lies with-

in the same curves as mine, whose arms glisten

in the dying lamplight- if only for

these brief ten years. Time has been kind to me.

 

My husband spends his days with his horses;

though he often smiles during supper,

and continues to offer golden charms

from Troy. I no longer taste the blood

and smoke on his lips; I cannot see in

his eyes the death of my prince.                        

 

 

Cassandra

 

I am not an entangler of men, nor

am I one granted madness by the god;

I dream, and so I am haunted each day

by my own cries as my hands are ripped from

the Palladium and I am pillaged

by one Greek and then another, until

my blood is as common as air.

                                                But those

who live in this doomed citadel do not see

their own gods deserting the cradles of

a race that will cease to be. They do not

sense the divine shifts in wind upon their

arms, nor the stirring of serpents in the

sea. Their sun-baked streets, each stone in its place,

will grow cold and flow with the water of

their empty wombs, barely enough to slake

the thirst for death.

                              Priamís tower rising

into a firestorm night, shrines of our

gods, useless in their burning, the gnarling

of dying, the dying, the dying- all

souls rising in a divine wind, winding

into a skein that skews left, then right, on

a relentless path to the stories of

myth.

 

 

Leaf Burning

 

The burning of leaves, like an elegy of war,

is not for public taste; it is in fact

an illegal act, banned by town

fathers and mothers who drive

daughters with budding breasts

and sons in plastic armor

from one struggle to another.

 

I miss the acrid smoke that flowed

in autumnal winds, swirling above

a figure with rake and pride- as if

the simple act of piling leaves

acknowledged the passing of

seasons and a mastery of time.

 

The fire, when lit, would flare

in a brief mix of flame and smoke,

then rush through the layers

of russet, yellow, and brown-

all sparking into one burn-

a parting act, like a hurried kiss

before the train pulls out.

 

If leaves have souls, then fire

frees them in a final rage-

a good ending. Better a burnt

offering than the decay and rot

of heaps and piles. The gods of

autumn must be pleased.

 

Tony Demarest received his Ph.D. in Old English and Old Norse Literature from Fordham University in 1975. He has published poetry in Segue, Polyphony, and the venerable New York Quarterly where he recently gave a poetry reading. He is presently professor of medieval literature at Felician College in Lodi, NJ.

 

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Copyright © 2005 Tony Demarest. All rights reserved.