David Capps is a philosophy professor at Western Connecticut State University. He is the author of three chapbooks: Poems from the First Voyage (The Nasiona Press, 2019), A Non-Grecian Non-Urn (Yavanika Press, 2019), and Colossi (Kelsay Books, 2020). He lives in New Haven, CT.
Upon Reading Seneca in the White Mountains of Crete
I realize the world belongs to the young. My soul, a once beautiful thing laps the milk
I give it, but it’s the shop-owner in Channai who cleans the doormat.
Happiness was too much, so I settled for tranquility: the mountain winds humming,
cicadas off-on drone, reading Seneca, who conceived of his body as on loan.
Suitcase Ekphrastic (after Moira Dryer)
Aphrodites rising in diaphanous veils, enticing in saffron-infused linens, collectively frightening that omnipresent bystander, reason. The sea is full of such passages, island hopping underlined in Aegean-blue, where passengers enjoy a good book, limon-cello, raki’s hospitable indiscretions, as the sounds of foreign voices echo prow to stern in the narrow cabin, drop within the folds of a priest’s robe sea-spray dusted as the ship crashes forward. Sappho’s cry may have grown darker as it followed her to the rocks below, but not her immemorial love or passion. Neither does the blue of Moira’s suitcase fade as our eyes swim to find a place, our place spiraling just beyond the ocean’s sapphire-blue quill, it lends the air a blue riff as if those things that describe our movement flew overboard: clothes, tents, chargers, gifts, pocketknives, cologne, beach pebbles, passports, etc. as things brought together in one bright, clattering, suspended
balanced between the white seagulls and the cracked-blue waves as they paint the harbor with salt-seeking Almirides trees shadowing
an empty beach
The sun and the sky, the stars and the moon, the earth, the air,
and the sea, gave us their blessing.
—Mantinada found on a wall in Polyrrhenia, Crete
Time used to be a Father. He would rest
only now and again from his tasks, his head
leaning on bony shoulders. His eyesight
dimming, blurry, he would hold out to you
a piece of lined paper in his hands. “This,”
he would say, “is very important,” and you
would know by his look that it was. These
were times when he’d seem like your own
grandfather the day your dog died, less like
an aged oak, solid, rooting the entire family,
and more like your own father. He would
squeeze your upper arm, feeling like the time
outside a tavern you had listened to a Cretan
sing his Mantinada with such sweat and verve
you tried to speak in broken Greek to him,
and he for his own part confused politeness
with dominance. Whatever he said, he must
have said because he thought you strong-
hearted enough to take it. “Now I’ll show
you why,” Time would say, and open up his
briefcase, brass latches snapping to his touch.
You remember then how he would remove
the photos and spread them out on the table:
the sun, moon, hundreds upon hundreds
of stars, other solar systems, white dwarfs, red
nebulae teasingly amorphous, unsteady as
lines in a child’s drawing of God the Father.
Then he would invite you nearer, saying
“if you look closely enough, you’ll see that
one is missing,” and smile as your eyes sought
a picture of nowhere, an incommunicable
truth. It was your Earth, blue and deceased,
pale and celebrated. Blessed Earth, it was You.
I found a narcissus that day in the field of Nysa, flowering
its numbing many-headed scent. When I pulled it from the roots
immortals noticed, the hole it left caught slender tendrils
tearing flesh as I fled in a rush—hearing your rumbling chariot
rise up from below, through the flower’s bulbous absence. I nearly
toppled over you, slipping milky froth between the wheels, this
was no calculated seduction calmed on a swan’s blissful flank,
everything I carried ground up in earth-tremors. Yet your love proved
empty, a god’s emptiness untamed. Common Aphrodite withered
the delicate narcissus no one now in winter can claim. I weather
that season by you. Held in your caves’ veined mazes, I dream of home.
Darkly flowering beneath the clouds, I muster all my strength,
Hades, to be heard, as my voice lashes wind into winter, I am the full
wailing over the Nysian Plain, beyond the Aegean’s harbors
where sailors slack from exhaustion wind their rope and pray to me
for safe passage. I dissipate, I drown, but not before clasping the season
you stole, and hailing down from the sky clear pomegranate seeds,
reminders of your own deceptive sustenance. Leave your frigid shells,
Erastus, my lips say—join my heaping sea-swells, they say to panting
Cerberus, partake—as I did. Where you voyage the gods are indifferent.
A dark-robed mother, I bore Demeter’s curse. Know the underworld
has swallowed a part of me, you who see hope as winter’s spring.
Poetry in this post: © David Capps
Published with the permission of David Capps