As  a pale gauze
rose over Asia, he awoke
             surrounded by, not Rome,
                            but huts, hanging
like tattered effigies of home
             from threads of cedar smoke;
                            Europe was dark.
The woman by him also woke,
             gently helped him to stand,
                            wrapped him in fur,
and led him outside by the hand
             to see the sun’s great yolk
                            push up against
the horizon’s rim. After it broke
             and bled into the bowl
                            of the Black Sea,
it rose again, transformed and whole.
             For minutes, neither spoke.
                            “Time,” he recited,
“tames the bullock to the yoke.”
             He laughed, more blithe than bitter,
                            the way he did
these days when he could find no fitter
             punchline to some old joke
                            than himself. The woman
knew the laugh if not the joke,
             the moods if not the meanings
                            of his strange words,
uttered aloud, to no one—keenings
             that once had made him choke
                            with grief, but that
evolved, as Daphne’s cries (a cloak
             of bark abrading her body)
                            gave way to birdsong
in her branches. Some things no god
             or Caesar can revoke.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 23 Number 3, on page 27
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