Dean Kostos

Dean Kostos

Dean Kostos is a New Yorker whose poetry collections include Rivering, Last Supper of the Senses, The Sentence That Ends with a Comma, and the chapbook Celestial Rust. He co-edited Mama’s Boy: Gay Men Write about Their Mothers (a Lambda Book Award finalist) and edited Pomegranate Seeds: An Anthology of Greek-American Poetry (its debut reading was held at the United Nations). His poems have appeared in over 300 journals and anthologies, such as Boulevard, Chelsea, The Cimarron Review, The Cincinnati Review, Southwest Review, Stand Magazine (UK), Token Entry, Vanitas, Western Humanities Review, and on Oprah Winfrey’s Web site His choral text, Dialogue: Angel of War, Angel of Peace, was set to music by James Bassi and performed by Voices of Ascension. His literary criticism has appeared on the Harvard UP Web site, in Talisman, and elsewhere. He has taught at Wesleyan, The Gallatin School of NYU, The City University of New York, and he has served as literary judge for Columbia University’s Gold Crown Awards. A recipient of a Yaddo fellowship, he also serves on the editorial board of Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora. His poem “Subway Silk” was recently translated into a film by Canadian filmmaker Jill Clark.


after Arshile Gorky

Stone is flesh again
& so it reclines. But there is no

head. Viewers’ eyes
return to the cranium-shaped urn, its fauvist

palette: mauve, helio-turquoise,
madder lake deep.

Ignore color theory, ignore
narrative arcs & the crumbling

surfaces of carnage. Flesh & muscle
dissolve into threnody, bleed into patterns, liquefy

into paint so thin it stains

Ectoplasm levitates
from the torso’s side

like the ghost of Prometheus’ liver. Absence
ossifies into form, defines

what is, will be
recalled, as the past

lounges on a plinth
of charred history books.


after a Greek vase painting at the
Metropolitan Museum, New York

Was it
a crack in the
sky or the sudden wail
of a hawk that thrust the naked
man down

revelers, their
horses’ necks garlanded
with chamomile buds? Falling toward

he looked
up, bewildered.
A thunderclap roared, or
was it laughter? Reaching from robes—

suckle & palm-
fronds—hands bolstered the man’s
body. But the revelers soon

him &
he fell, his gaze
transfixed, his muscled arms
raised—wings. Below, men & women
swilled dark

wine. Plunged
into gossip,
song, they lounged on engraved
couches. But the man, anointed
with oil,

with a mist of
blond sand, was not among
them—summoned by a shriek no one
could hear.


The Greek and Roman Galleries
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

is mathematical. An insect-clicking
of cogs & gears activates

its calculator: subtract
New York from Tarquinia.

Subtract Now from When,
until bronze Achilles buzzes

through stratosphere again, buffeted
by ancient zephyrs,

arriving faster than
want. Conservators’ hands

have scoured the tarnished

The chariot glistens, wheels
poised to spin immobile—

equal-sign between past
& future.


The Greek and Roman Galleries
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

His veined hand reaches out to you.
Encased in a verdigris husk,
this man cannot trudge
through battlefields & agoras, brothels & temples.

Encased in verdigris damask,
he no longer flees
battlefields & agoras, brothels & temples.
Gape into his sockets’ sepulchers:

he no longer sees.
His carnelian eyes once glinted in torchlight.
Gaze into his sockets’ sepulchers:
vestals cradled lilacs.

His eyes squinted in torchlight, watching
ephebes balance bowls of wine.
Vestals cradled lilacs,
chanting anapests in dusty Eleusis.

Ephebes spilled wine into soil.
Now bronze entombs their voices,
decanting anapests from dusty Eleusis.
In the moment’s monument,

bronze entombs his voice.
This man cannot trudge
from the moment’s monument.
His veined hand reaches out to you.

Poetry in this post: © Dean Kostos
Published with the permission of Dean Kostos