DIARY OF FLORA BAUM
March 7, 2003
Vediovis inter Duos Lucos
Was it innocent Iphigenia
Whom her father sacrificed at Aulis?
Was it irresistible unresisting Helen
Whom her lover transported to Troy?
Was it their phantoms, their simulacra,
As in revisionist versions?
How do I know? I know
That when you meet beautiful sorrowful Helen in Troy
You have to believe it is she conversing with you.
And when you encounter in Argos
Angry agonizing Clytemnestra
You are certain her daughter went under the knife and is gone.
As for me,
The shell around me,
The shell which you see around me,
The shell which I feel around me,
Is no longer mine,
Is no longer I.
Perhaps it is a grasshopper’s flesh.
It may be a cicada’s body.
It goes on changing like the old immortal body of Tithonus
Or of that sibyl whom some saw suspended in a jar,
And only underneath this fragile shell, this threadbare cloak,
Under it and apart from it,
Am I what I have been,
Am I what I am.
The old men of Troy are sitting on the tower
With old King Priam above the Scaean Gate.
Helen walks out towards the wall from the palace
Leaving her weaving to see the imminent duel down on the plain.
The old men whisper: No one can censure
Greeks or Trojans for warring over such beauty.
Nevertheless let her go back home to Sparta
With the swift black ships and give us peace.
King Priam sits at Troy upon the tower
Over the Scaean Gate, his brothers with him,
Lampus and Clytius and martial Hicetaon.
Where is the fifth of Laomedon’s sons? Is he old?
Where is Tithonus, husband of the Dawn?
For Dawn comes every day. He does not come.
He lives immortal by the streams of ocean
At the earth’s ends. And yet his son will come,
Will come, tall comely Memnon, son of Dawn,
To fall before Achilles under Troy.
The son may die. Tithonus will not die.
He lives old, older, oldest, by the ocean.
He ages at the edges of the earth.
Dawn loved him. Zeus allowed him deathlessness.
He lives forever in his deathless death.
He dies forever in his lifeless life.
And what is the cry of the daughter from the altar?
After this sacrifice the battleships
Can carry warriors and war to Troy.
I too have been sacrificed.
I too have been loved.
I too mingle with mortal and immortal,
Live with human and divine.
For did not Aúos come in golden sandals?
Or did not Aúos come in golden sandals?
Was it Artemis, Aphrodite, Apollo, Zeus,
Who gave me age, required of me the zoic,
Acing and zeroing, from A to Z?
Others loved me. Yes, I have been loved.
I myself have sacrificed myself.
What of that stream of sun, of aether, that illumined and consumed?
What of that chain of fog, of thunder, that battered and clamped?
What of this husk? Whose husk? Could there be more?
Under a cloud that once was a body,
Beneath a shell that once was a self,
Within a phantom,
Inside a simulacrum,
Something is living,
Something that is I.
So I speak, the speaker or the spoken.
The written or the writer, thus I write.
Sibyl, do you wish to die, or will
You take me to and bring me back from hell?