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The Argonaut Rose, Fleeing with the Sailors,

Leaving the Body of Her Brother Behind

by Diane Wakoski


She [Circe] longed to hear the voice of the maiden, her kinswoman [Medea], as soon
as she saw that she had raised her eyes from the ground. For all those of the race of
Helios were plain to discern, since by the far flashing of their eyes they shot in front
of them a gleam as of gold.
—Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica, translated by R. C. Seaton


He never saw, wearing his gold-clad helmet
and bearing under his arm
the stolen chest
now filled with the Fleece
that she
this woman of Moonlight, this sorceress who had made
him royal with her potions
               of henbane, and lily
               root elixirs that made a dragon sleep, no
he never saw that she was
a Princess
and he only an adventurer. Perhaps bathed in his
wreath of golden decisions,
shimmering as he rowed his ship in the arms
of Apollo’s furled musings,
perhaps he felt manly for taking
her back with him,
for not abandoning her
after she helped him to murder her brother Apsyrtus so
that the Argonauts could
escape, and perhaps he even admired her silver body
under the mantle of dawn, after making love on the ocean that widened her
against her own people.

Or perhaps he was really in love with his own
golden heroic self
or the other men, seated over the Dodonian oak,
who helped him
on this quest. Perhaps she
was too quiet, like dawn itself, her
magic always invisible, like rain
before it pours or fog as it wraps a man
in its frothy sheepskin, thus
so powerful, but not something he could
remember.
Her silver melts
into the earth or is outshone in daylight,
overshadowed in the silver-pricked night. She gave him
his right
to radiance,
then stepped aside but
he never saw, never noticed
               as she floated in her invisible silver raiment
that she had the eyes
to match his helmet, for she kept her eyes
down, as did modest women, and only Circe cleansing her
from the sacrificial murder of her brother
made her raise them
and understood their full sun-dazed intent.

 

Diane Wakoski was born in Southern California and educated at the University of California Berkeley. She has earned her living as a bookstore clerk, a junior high school teacher, a library storyteller, a visiting writer, and a guest poetry reader at college campuses. Since 1975, she has been poet in residence at Michigan State University, where she currently teaches. Diane continues to work on an epic poem of the West using the Medea myth and simple allusions to the ideas posed by quantum theory, called “The Archeology of Movies and Books.” (9/2007)


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AGNI Magazine :: published at Boston University ©2008 AGNI