Being a god must be difficult work.
Catering to human beings
Who are always asking, always needing–
Grant me this, grant me that,
Well, just thinking about the prospect
All that’s required, all those details,
That in itself is exhausting.
No wonder the Olympians
Gave up the deity business,
Abandoned it to the new kid on the block.
Even the big guy, Zeus,
Who had eleven to help him,
Plus his auxiliary armies–
Cerberus, Thanatos, Persephone,
The Maenads, always nursing a hangover,
The Sirens, the Nereids, the Dryads,
Medusa, who had a bad hair day every day
Of her life–
So many others, it must have been a
Venue of titanic dimensions the annual
Barbecue of the immortals.
Really, how much chicken salad and ambrosia
Does one order for three thousand Oceanides?
Even with a myriad of minor deities at
His beck and call
Zeus had his hands full.
Wish fulfillments and blessings
Is exacting work, almost as hard as
Chasing after irresistible virgins.
Of those, Zeus was predestined to rape
Quite a few. He would disguise
Himself as a bull or swan, then perform
The deed. How uncomfortable those disguises,
And cigarettes not yet invented,
Zeus couldn’t even have a smoke afterwards.
Such an effort rape is, that once upon a time
He appealed: Ladies, virgins, he said,
Give up your free will.
Submit instead, submit. Zeus is tired.
But it was to no avail.
Ah, but what female, virgin or not
Could have resisted the charms
And the arms of golden Apollo,
Sunny, sexy and epikourios,
The latter meaning helpful,
Apollo, musical and poetic
Hyperion’s diligent understudy
And deserving successor– Apollo!
The hyperborean charioteer,
To this day still, if drops of blood
Spill from the death of love
Apollo will turn them into
Fragrant, alluring hyacinths;
He’s even changed tears into
Gentle his power when he quiets grief,
Heals the beloved’s pain
With the planting of a cypress tree.
Sometimes at night, parting the mist
He will emerge, lyre in hand,
Here at his temple, in Bassai,
Sit wistful among the ruined limestone
And sing of the luster his life once had
And of his forgotten name.
Pillaged by wind, a bare landscape
Surrounds the temple.
Rock sprouts amid scarce shrubbery,
Rock grey by birth,
And cold and desolate stone strewn
On the side of the mountain.
In mute vigilance
How many assaults, how much plunder
Has this winter endured?
Long ago, to this Arcadian peak
Iktinos was dispatched from Athens.
He gazed at the rugged earth,
Blue mountains aligned
In the distance, heights curved,
Falling, searching the horizon:
This was his summer.
He left as testament
The grey colonnades,
Fables carved in marble,
A Doric strength harmonious
With the lonely landscape.
But silenced and broken
Was the summer promise,
Its soul crushed and sold.
No one looked up to say
Don’t auction off the soul,
No one stepped up to protect
The temple from assault, or
Dared to confront
The power of a Zeus.
I come to Bassai–
Sometimes in fact, often in spirit–
Restored, I gaze
At the dilapidated elegance,
Feel the freedom imparted
By the solitude.
My imagination thrives on
Irreverence, is unrestrained
By the feasible. We are
Restless spirits, all of us who come here.
Night, and the winds, the owls,
The grey wolves arrive.
We wait for the mist to part,
Then he approaches.
We sing, each of us our own lament,
In harmony with the cacophony of the earth.
Our noise is deafening, crows join in
But that’s alright, we rock
And roll the mountain
And Pythia is jealous.
Apollo doesn’t mind,
He’s hip to us
And to the ravages of this world.
When he sings
The lyrics are his old aphorisms,
Laconic in their wisdom, pertinent still.
Once in while he winks
Because he borrows stuff–
He borrows a lot–
Et in Arcadia Ego, is a favorite.
His refrain always the same–
He repeats a lot–
Γνῶθι σαὐτόν, γνῶθι σαὐτόν, γνῶθι σεαυτόν,
And winks again because he knows
Μηδὲν ἄγαν does not apply
Τo nighttime song.
At dawn he vanishes.
Morning again, sunlight,
I bend to glide beneath
The immense Italian shroud:
Magnificence, it cloaks
A plundered, aged magnificence.
What do you think? I ask excitedly.
I search out those eyes of yours,
The answer expressed in luminous clarity
In those eyes of yours.