Black Figure Cup, Attic, 500-475 BC


It came up mixed, a potpourri, a constellation

of feathered bone and forgotten meals: Aegean fish,

a mess of undecipherable food, a needle, bent, well-used,

shattered fragments of an ancient pot.


In the stifle of hot sun, his legs were crossed, he sat

with shards of poetry on his lap, shuffling

puzzled jigsaws amongst grains

of filtered sand, and half a tooth.


Herein he construed a tale

that was worth a smile, at least,

at that night’s review: a tail to wag a dog,

and make it run; whereby

a bite of bone broke tooth,

and whose owner thereby accidentally smashed

his precious pot;

in one convulsive swoop

sent contents

of his table and his meal askew.


Somewhere the Oedipus assigned

this task read a zodiac of runes,

saw signs therein

of compatibility with his skill

whereby the damages,

so ruinous and obscured,

could be restored to “almost new”.


So much, it gleams:

A satyr reaches for an arm.

A woman with a lyre

turns, her hand

still plucks the strings; Surprised

by all that this incident portends,

she twists her head around

one side, and waits,

not certain

if she should run and hide, or stay:

play music at his side.

(Abstract Analysis)

In this country, this century, from even garbage,

do we accept both loss and gain

and what one tosses out

like an old de-treaded tire,

another will surely rush to acquire.

We relish the partial, jettisoned

products of ancient times:

torsos and worn-out coins

fragmentary aphoristic rhymes;

We deign to draw inference

from abstraction, whose origin

was persiflage, or simply a joke.

What therefore meant the Homer of this piece;

some sly and contumelious poke

at religious faith, to show

that gods, like men

are overcome by undeniable, licentious needs?


Or, was she a love

and he the spurned,

and like a sunken, bottled, message

in a stream, some secret craving of the heart?

He held his tongue

for fear that he’d be burned,

and reigned his aspirations to full stop.


Instead, he painted feelings on a pot.