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.