He has known Christ
and Zoroaster too, this sad grey fellow
with the lichen beard, left paws-up like a Titan fetus;
and Mohammed sat some centuries on his chest.
The bulb of percussion by his unlipped mouth reveals
where a hammer fell in the long Byzantine world.
Three thousand years and Delos too is smashed!
But no wind brings the news
to this late guest who mouths
‘I come the latest, not the least
of the Archer’s offerings from no minor state’.
Like a cold wall-lizard huddled deep
for whom time’s dead until the spring,
he waits the pulleys, boats and men
to buoy him up on that clear element
through which he’d sink like olive-pits in air.
Though still that lame foot limps upon his mind:
‘The Archer loves no flawed or halting thing’.
The children’s cries come skipping up the rocks,
new dialects of an old tongue.
He rests like all who miss their time;
grows primitive, a monster. And the goat
leaps by, fire-yellow eyed, with a click
of black cleft hooves; drops its dark
dung olives in the hair, the hair once meant for jewels,
and the eyes where crocus bulbs have lodged.
The peaks subside; the gentle earthquake rocks
its sediment down the cliffs, like honey
draining from a gourd. Each noon
the Archer’s rays still beat
like hammers on the sluggard’s breast,
and the urgent wind blows daily up from Delos.
© Mark O'Connor