August 22, 2011

William O’Daly

TO THE ANTIPHONIST

after Odysseas Elytis

Neither cloud nor dream can exist in words—
not even the olive tree, silvery,
and in winter, slate blue. The light of
an extinguished star no longer guides
our destiny, indivisible, unseen,
even as it empties the sky.
Navigating by the rose, we steer
without pause through the burning ruins.
But when we speak our truth, the children
swarm the station, bothering
the frightened passengers. You’re not old,
the stone steps to South Heaven Gate
and the trains are old and now I see,
the songs are ancient. I’m not partial
to romantic love, not to politics or speeches,
and even if God designed the cathedral and the shark,
we, like the wave, eventually will empty.
So, what do you say—
shall we give the earth back to our feet?

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010

Note: Music is by Spanish classical guitarist Louis Valentine Johnson, playing a composition adapted for the poem from his forthcoming CD recording, Twenty-One Years.