The Grand Comneni of Trebizond

“so rich in romance

so sparse in history”

-Edward Gibbon

In Trebizond the towers lean,

ululating at the waters,

churning   distorting reflections

in an ominous angularity;

a gradual immersement in the boiling   gelatinous pot of the whirlpool.


There are warlike vessels on the Black Sea,

smudges or puffs of smoke on an old canvas,

metastatic nodulations    something’s

askew in the distance.


The Turkoman had supple bodies,

rode naked in winter,

clung like Centaurs to their horses.

They trace their origin

to the Turk Mountain in Outer Mongolia.


A princess renowned for her beauty looks down

from the parapet   clutches a balustrade,

holds on to the embroidered hem of her loros

as if to her royalty,

drifts like an oar-less Argonaut

towards the myth of a northern shoreline,

her fleece a caprice of fool’s gold,

seems scintillating in the sunlight:

She floats  grandiose  on a reiterative wave of self-pity,

nervily brushing strands of hair as though they are insects.

Yes. She really can make her Turkish

Governor disappear magically imperiously with as simple a gesture:

an abstract asper,

its silver-coated surface

turned to an imperial solidus:

But the actualization of this effort

has not yet broached her consciousness


This is her fortress.

Her brothers are off now in the army

fighting distant wars for their enemy.

Five times a day they descend amidst

smoke  carnage  the snort of camels,

face East and with barely a simulation of hypocrisy,

rub knees  touch shaven heads to embroidery  murmur a syncytium of prayer to Allah.


Thus they cling to a name as to a mountain as tenuous and as fragile

a gentility as a spider’s webbing.

Such arcane derivatives were better swept

beneath a Persian carpet

and into surreal Kline-bottle mazes.


Stones crumble. The gates we wait for most are sealed,

guarded  disguised as pits wherein fearsome vipers dwell.

Siliceous sediments translated to sand to shards of glass

mirror gleaming coins that have fallen between the cracks. The Towers

of Trebizond are decadent and green with mold,

and tomorrow’s seraglio holds the past

as hostage. Here the Middle-Ages parenthetically

will mime its way into the twentieth century,

play-acting its obsolescence

with a flicker on the giant screen:

“Painted Ships in Battle Array, with the Fall of Icarus.”

She moves her legs apart   with intention,

as if to let in the poison.