Photo by Roloff Beny, from The Pleasure of Ruins
Photo by Roloff Beny, from The Pleasure of Ruins

Rejected Poems of a Classicist

Aging papers double-spaced
Staple holes rejection dates
Carbon copies near to fade
Sent me late
Language stern as stone
In mind's monastery
Word and line
Pillar and arc
Frame the eye
Stand here in the passage
Down 5,000 years

And the cobbled roads of Caesar
That sloped to the verge
Are gone
And the carriages of Borgia
The lubricious sound of spinning

The thick forests of Cyprus
Copper smelts birthing
Swords bridles twining brooch
The oarsmen's cadence the anvil song
The Stoic slave uncomplainant
Of his shattered arm

Laughter from the amphitheater at Knossus
Made drifting wavers on the wine-dark sea
Now still as the Gates of Tyre
As the moon's argent olive groves

All wane but word
For breath is God or sign of God
And word
Shaped breath

Sanscrit Hebrew Greek
The scorpion Cyrillic forms
Fugitive tendrils through the later lands
Over the pale and bloody ground
Wild wheat now soughs a sound
And linguists cannot know
They are to lead
When the dream comes back around

O spare and fictive life
Gods and angels obscure
We look out upon the waters
We make ourselves the metaphor
But weightless stone the trace of sound
Carries in flight unhindered
It does not drown

In memoriam
Frederick W. Locke

Ruins of Palmyra. Syria - Photo by Roloff Beny
Ruins of Palmyra. Syria
Photo by Roloff Beny

Click below to hear WJ Ray reading
"Rejected Poems of a Classicist" with musical background:
Cilmeri, "Abersmyth's Farewell", Cilmeri, Sain, 1980

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