Poetry Porch: Poetry


By George Kalogeris

The Spartans insist that their archaic Zeus
Is by Kleárchos, pupil of Daedalos.
Zeus the Highest, in sheets of battered bronze,

With bolts at the joints. But others claim it’s by
Kleárchos of Région, the student of Skyllus.
Daedalos, as Peter Levi explains,

Is a creature of primitive legend . . . Along dank walls
Of the Sibyl’s cave, those murals by Daedalos.
And Virgil has verses that show how a skein unraveled

The labyrinth, blind turn by baffling turn.
Inside the heifer, cast in standing bronze,
Pasíphaé is waiting, down on all fours.

And there’s what comes of it, the Minotaur.
And further down, those ashen wings set down
At golden Apollo’s feet. And Daedalos

Himself, depicting himself in the act of suspending
Grief, the chisel fallen from his outstretched
Hands, still trying to catch his falling son falling

Through all the brilliant skies of his spurious creation.

Even two years after the death of his child
Emerson said the loss had taught him nothing—
His fundamental nature remained unchanged.

“The reference of every kind of production”
(By which he also means reproduction, and art)
“Is at last to an aboriginal power.” Mammá,

May I keep the bell I’ve made, by my bed? I’m afraid
It may alarm you, Mammá, if it rings too late
At night, and all of Concord wakes up to a sound

Louder than ten thousand hawks, Mammá, a noise
That crosses the water, to all the countries, like
Some great glass thing that falls and breaks to pieces.

My cousin Petro, young father, dying of cancer,
His countenance fixed, no matter how painful the chemo—
Until his children enter his hospital room.

Kneeling by the bed, his village father, uncle
Leonidas, spreading his hands like Daedalos,
And calmly asking Christ what he did to deserve this.

Molón Levé is carved on Petro’s headstone,
Along with a Spartan shield. “Come and take them.”
Defiant words the doomed once aimed at Xerxes,

When he said, through a messenger, “Throw down your weapons.”
Molón Levé. “Come and take them.” Moloch
Came and took Petro. A father’s no shield for his child.

Swinging his censer back and forth on its chain,
Father Míhos thurified the grave, chanting
The Resurrection through wisps of dispersing smoke.

And then, at Woodlawn Cemetery, in Lynn,
Petro’s mother, aunt Éfsthasía, began
The ancient folk lament, the ólolúgdon.

Éfsthasía, lying face-down on the earth,
Screaming into the ground the name of her son,
Begging the stones to take her, to be with Petro.

Even the elders aghast, and no one knowing
How or when or if they should stop the keening.
The daughter’s hand over her mouth, the priest kneeling.

And then my mother steps out of the stuporous haze
Of Alzheimer’s, as if part of a ritual
Too old to ever be touched by memory loss.

Élla, xaiménie. “Get up wretch.” And she does—
My aunt with the blades of grass on her long black dress,
My mother absentmindedly picking them off.

Embracing, they slap each other on the back
And across both shoulder-blades, in the village way
Greek women show their mutual, hovering grief.

As if to say, to the dull thud of their backs
And shoulder-blades: Here’s where the pinions should be,
If we weren’t human, and we could fly away

The Spartans insist that their archaic Zeus
Is by Kleárchos, pupil of Dáedalós.
But others cite Kleárchos of Régión,

The student of Skyllus. Daedalos, they say,
Is a creature of primitive legend. Zeus the Highest,
Who lost his son, and wept in tears of blood,

As Homer says, because the Fates had fixed
The fate of his Sarpédon. Zeus the Highest,
In sheets of battered bronze, with bolts at the joints.

Confabulated figments of lamentation,
Their dolor as clunky as El Cid advancing
In empty armor. Colossal Poundian phantoms.

Bogus the king on a cliff, so steeped in dread
For his son the waves engulfing Áegeús
Were already blacker than the approaching sail;

And fake the rock they call “The Calling Rock,”
Where the goddess once sat, still calling her daughter home
For supper. Deméter exhausted. The boulder unmoved.

Even stone-faced Niobe, weeping for her nine children,
Nothing but forgeries of falling rain
Engraving the gouged cliff-face of Mount Sisýplos.

Look! There’s Niobe, child, my parents cried
As we were driving by the Quincy quarries.
But it’s only from the distance of their ancestral

Voices I see it now: that wild disfigured scree.

Frigid Deméter. Emerson’s blank bewilderment.
They’re like the dáedalá, those wooden blocks
That are actually figurines, but rendered almost

Featureless. Pausanias saw one on Naxos.
A tiny Aphrodite with broken arms.
He says the base was signed by Dáedalós.

But where the foaming waves of her flowing peplos
Should be, he found a four-square stump. On Naxos,
The island where Áriádne was abandoned.

Ariadne, who threaded the sinuous maze
Synonymous now with the name of Daedalos—
Although it was only after he mastered the formal

Shapelessness of these wooden totemic figures
That Daedalos was given the title of Maker.
The reference of every kind of production

Is at last to an aboriginal power,

Emerson said, after losing little Waldo.
Expressionless, squat reliefs. Even older than

Picasso’s Cycladic art. Like the blunt carvings
Seferis brought back from the Dead Sea, while serving
As consul to Damascus, during the war.

He travelled on crowded cargo ships. With refugees
Clutching their belongings. Those obdurate faces.
I know of no other surviving dáedalá.

Copyright © 2015 by George Kalogeris.