Sunday, 24 July 2011

Antiquity's Rose

“There was a world...or was it all a dream?” (Helen)
And there Homer traced the curves
Of Calliope along the walls of Troy, 
Beneath a god-made diorama of a matchstick war, 
Where all were lit, and all would fall
And yet I dream a most preposterous dream.
A dream where Troy is unbroken,
The lapis seas consuming themselves along virgin shores,
Helen sitting in the shell of her golden egg,
A flaming swan, fondling the sun
That rests between her burning lips;
Beauty entombed,
With sand-bled ringlets and moon-slaughtered robes,
But eyes of a chimera, of fire and ice, 
Fixed on the crinkled waves and paper boats, 
That glisten on the horizon like stars 
On a fallen sky.
She sings Paris to sleep with cowardly tunes,
And decorates his dreamscape with tales
Of tin-foil lions, and men broken on rocks;
Her gilded fingers 
(cursed with a malformed midas touch)
Scraping the impenetrable walls
As she retreats to her chambers, 
A blood stained siren.
The gods descend to ready their thrones
On the bones of man-made altars,
And the ghost ships arrive,
The windup soldiers standing two by two,
Thrown from the arc and
Moulded from Olympian clay, their fate
Carved into their breastplates by prophets of age.

“There is nothing alive more agonized than man 
of all that breathe and crawl across the earth” (Zeus)

And there they crawl, from sea to wall,
Soldiers born with rocks between their teeth
And metal stitched to skin,
Volcanic glory bottled behind mournful eyes,
Which steam as blood pumps through lava-tube veins
And Destiny drags their hollow limbs across the sand.

Many fall to Beauty’s mess
As she waltzes with Ruin atop the broken ramparts,
Lust smeared on naked walls,
As Hector and Achilles battle
In shallow waters of the styx,
An arrow through heel and sword through throat,
Bronzed death,
As Apollo bleeds from Spartan mouths,
And Aphrodite rips the hearts out of fallen men
To hang as windchimes over crimson seas.

The moon refuses to shine on fallen Ilium
And Helen sits dressed in shadows and pyre-smoke,
Her tears caught in an apple-core chalice,
As a wooden horse made from the bones
Of a thousand ships
Rubs its back against a decade of death
And explodes beneath Homer’s brocade - 
Shattering the walls of blood
With sibylline precision,
Cassandra broken in prayer at the foot of a temple,
Her words hanging behind glass eyes.
“Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men. The wind scatters the old leaves across the earth and the living timber bursts with new buds and spring comes round again. And so with men: as one generation comes to life, another dies away.”

And there Helen sits
On the ruins of an empire,
A blood flower blooming 
Between the souls of Heroes
And bones of Myth;
Antiquity’s rose
Cutting the buds off of newborns
And scattering the ashes across the land
Lest she find another Troy to burn.

Yet, when the dust finally settles

On a war-born vase,
All that is learnt is how to fall
With melted wings and blinded eyes,
For no man can catch the sun,
But all would die trying...



  1. That picture is a spectacular accompaniment to your poem (perhaps dragging it to the top of the page will fix the formatting blues...)

    I've said it before, but I'll say it again - this poem is simply stunning!

    As I began to read part 1, I felt the need to strap on my armour and heft my blade.. into the fray!

    'Beneath a god-made diorama of a matchstick war..' Such an image to linger over, but there is so much more... Such an image of the languid, god-child Helen. You couldn't say she was blonde and dresses in white, but: 'With sand-bled ringlets and moon-slaughtered robes'. That is art right there, my friend.

    Part 2 is a powerful rendition of war, and its consequent toll on the lives of women... the Helens who drove men to kill, the Cassandras who warned them against it and the goddesses who collected the hearts of men: 'And Aphrodite rips the hearts out of fallen men To hang as windchimes over crimson seas...'

    The conclusion provides the ironic twist - nothing is learnt from the battles of bygone days, except how to die.
    'A blood-flower blooming
    Between the souls of Heroes
    And bones of Myth'

  2. This was a pleasure to read. You've retold the age-old story with your own perspective's emphases, creating a tale within a tale. Like Kerry, I am saddened by the fact that as a race, we are very slow learners!

  3. So much blood-shed and trouble caused by a woman. The opening stanza really brings it home fast. The gods created the entire scene, with their interfering yet those fighting within it are but mere men. Stood there, fragile, breakable, and burnable.

    The lapis sea line in is just beautiful, such an image. Her stood upon the coast gazing out to sea wondering what the fuck happened, but from what I remember she was a caniving cow (could remember wrong). You really put in so many images of destruction and power, wrapped around her beauty. For she was the most beautiful, exquisite creature created at that time and men shed much blood to try and taste her.

    So many powerful and hard hitting, sad and delicate images in here! The crinkled waves and paper boats once again reinforcing the fragility of it. Showing also the idea of it being created by the gods and easily destroyed once again, as is being shown by the fallen sky. Everything's temporary.

    I love the little digs at Paris, her taunting and the head nods to the Wizard of Oz. Paris playing at being the grand general (you get my point) when he's nothing more than a lustful boy. Bringing in the midas touch, her beauty was her curse. She brought down all around her, the siren drawing all men folk into her call before they crashed and burned.

    The gods couldn't help themselves and went down to champion their sides - many were sacrificed to bring them down to the Earth though. Where they sit without a care in the world for those who fell to bring them into the twisted game. Men are just little toys they watch, marching, two by two before eventually their clockwork mechanism gives up and they die. No glory in that.

    Each man's fate woven into the tapestry of time before they ever had a chance.

    The next stanza -

    The crawling as animals, children, broken, lost, without glory or worth. To have metal stitched into their skin is to be born into the army, a warrior, no choice in the matter. They came from beneath the earth. Where heartless lava/magma flows through their veins where blood should, there's no soul nor care present there. Just clay soldiers brought about to do a job. Although, the mournful eyes suggests they have some idea of what they and will do, they don't entirely wish to bring it about but they're puppets. They have no say, no choice.

    Helen can't help herself as she parades herself above all that she has caused while they fight for her once more. Already both half dead. Of course neither made it, none were meant to keep such as her. The gods got involved as well, Appollo vs Aphrodite. I do love the windchimes image - So brutal yet somehow beautiful as well. Hanging the hearts of those slain men above the bloodbath, a reminder.

    Helen sitting by herself with the poison apple, fully eaten, surrounded by her own destruction. 10 years of war and death caused by her. The trojan horse fallen and re-formed from the broken bones of those who fought within/along side it. Poor Cassandra, broken and lost.

    I love the last stanza - Taking away any shred of the chance she may of been innocent. Stripping away the buds from new borns, she wants nothiing of peace, she lives on the bloodshed. The war brought about by her. She's the burning desire, lust, that all men can't help but throw themselves over a cliff to try and have a small moment with.

    I like it. I hate the fact you have quite the bloody range with your voice and abilties.... lol. But, the poem I do like a lot

  4. I agree, this was absolutely stunning. Holy moly, just fabulous.

  5. this is an incredible write...epic in scope...some fine story telling and imagery through out...

    1. hey, its been a while....smiles...that is an old pic of me...
      still epic...and some incredible lines along the way...i like how each chapter is preceded by a quote that weaves them in nicely...great closure...yes, we will die trying to attain the unattainable...lust has lost many a life...

  6. Today must be the day for mythology to come to life. Still, I love the way you told the story. And I too agree with Kim and Kerry.

  7. Wow! A vivid re-telling of the original and as the others before me have stated, perfect image.

    Nicely done!

  8. This is absolutely wonderful. You have a talent that makes me want to turn off my computer and go back golf and fishing. Beautiful.

  9. As I read the poem and yet again witnessed the carnage of men's quest for a woman's love I can only say this. They may be worth it. Your retooling of this often told tale was amazing. You are a talented scribe and I am glad you share your words. It pushes me to be better.

  10. Vivid full of passion and hate all created from lust. The reckless abandonment that ensued, just brutal. Stunning; I am in awe! So many great lines, but the last one says it all:

    "With melted wings and blinded eyes,
    For no man can catch the sun,
    But all would die trying...

  11. Wow, and they say THESE are perilous times! Extremely well-wrought poem. Makes me know how much I dont know.

  12. Hello again.
    I've just noticed you in my followers list. I am honored and have become your newest follower too. Many thanks for your support. Hope you'll visit again soon.

    BTW: Just reread this poem...awesome work, especially that power-packed ending!

  13. I love the mythology inherent in these works. Well chosen quotes and great representations of same.

  14. So very powerful, OT. There are so many lessons to be learned in the story of Troy and especially in the events/choices leading up to it--Paris' choice of Aphrodite, the beautiful woman, for one. You bring myth to life.

  15. I especially love "And yet I dream a most preposterous dream." Wonderful! Keep dreaming that dream!

  16. I am taking my time to read & internalize this OT ~ Very vivid imagery & sharp language from you ~


  17. heck... what an epic write... love the pic as well... cool on embedding the myths and there are certainly some lessons we can learn that we shouldn't do... loved the ...She sings Paris to sleep with cowardly tunes.... especially...stood out to me..maybe because i just was in paris a few weeks back...smiles

  18. I love how the mythic wars are moved all this into general truths by the quotes. I love the stark language, especially in the stanza about the war, I could see and feel the dread of war, and Helen in the midst of all... Oh this is something to return to and ponder.

  19. myth and reality becomes one in the end...times haven't changed and we haven't evolved....

  20. Wow! Stunning and I read it twice - remembering the myths I haven't visited in a long time.