Dear forgive me, for I love us

deeply, but reading Herodotus

lately I’ve all these notions of love

in the garments of mythology,

how like you are the queen of Lydia,

unnamed, but now she seems to have your name,

brown-skinned daughter of the Hermus

whose blue-green elbow kisses your kingdom at Sardis—

 

see, I’m sorry—this isn’t making sense—

names and places as foreign to you

as birdsong without any referent.

 

Plenty of people are richer than Croesus,

so what’s the use of saying

richer than Croesus

lucky as Polycrates

wise as Solon

or whatever madness was Xerxes’

when he chastised the Hellespont,

three hundred lashes under the whip,

and submerged a pair of fetters beneath the turbid strait—

let richness be its own measure of what is rich

and hate its own hate.

 

Except that ideas are only the storied cities of stories,

the people who traffic thoroughfares there,

who build up their dwellings by deeds.

History is no older than the telling of it,

love is only the story of love,

and to tell of how severely my love is,

I slip into the role of Kandaules

who gives up his wife to extravagant praise.

 

Two years I’ve been without you—

and now like Gyges glimpsing your sublimity

in the narrow band of light between a door,

faithless and devout to the sight of thee,

I’ve been granted the choice to have you once more.

 

Ambition has no grip, nor lust for wealth

or kingly power over me,

nothing Archilochus says is true,

for I am Gyges crept up with dagger

upon my old self, sleeping Kandaules,

only for the sight of you.


R. Charboneau

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