Murray Alfredson is a former librarian, lecturer and Buddhist Associate in the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy at Flinders University. He has published essays on Buddhist meditation, on inter-faith relations and poetics, poems and poetry translations in journals and anthologies in Australia, the USA, the UK and Canada and a short collection, ‘Nectar and light’, in New poets, 12, Adelaide: Friendly Street Poets and Wakefield Press, 2007.
He has won a High Beam poetry award 2004, the Poetry Unhinged Multicultural Poetry Prize 2006, the Friendly Street Poets Political poetry prize 2009, and has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, in 2009 and 2012.
He lives on the Fleurieu Peninsula by Gulf St Vincent in South Australia.
Horn ready for the hunt,
Zeus thought for once to please,
lengthened the night for sport
and wormed into Alkmene’s
bed and body, taking
Amphitryon’s form in detail.
He fathered Herakles;
but rode away on dawnwinds,
left weight of fatherhood
on cuckold’s shoulders.
Amphitryon to Herakles
I expect tomorrow’s battle is my last.
I’m grown not only grey and grizzled, Son, but joint-stiff,
blunted. I need to talk.
I love your mother. I’ll not
pretend the path’s been easy. But some things are more inward,
thoughts that rise all unawares inside a man
and hold him back from loving as he might when lying
by his wife, self-doubts that suck away one’s will,
that leave a woman pine for loving.
It’s not so much
one went before me. I do not blame her either, for truly
she thought that Zeus was I. Not just that Zeus invaded,
nor even that he walked away from you (a child’s
a child, and even you, a hero, had need of nurture).
No, the hardest thing is this. When I arrived that morning,
she glowed and thanked me for the long night’s joys. That hurt.
I never could forget her look of love’s content.
It told me all. How could I match the god’s performance?
Yes, she often told me, it was only me
she wanted, and we’ve both stayed true these years together.
I’ve never doubted her. And yet the thought has haunted:
how much stronger was her song that night?
Alkmene at Amphitryon’s grave
Breasts are not bruised with beating but deep inside
I ache. We’ve had full thirty years of love and strife.
The god threw us a twisted dart that pinned us both.
The children bound us tighter round those barbs. And you
were good to me that morning you returned, as piece
by piece the facts unfolded.
Perhaps, my love, you hear me;
we always hope, of course, but never know unless
we hear from you who’ve left us. Where Zeus had strength and passion,
your steady love meant more, far more. You gentled me.
He came nowhere near you, came not within a mile.
You out-divined the god.
Flicking fork-tongued hair,
toxic as a taipan,
tiger snake or brown —
horror enough, no doubt,
to turn a man to stone,
though not before his eyes
could read the invitation
of her naked body.
Some men were quick to rise;
but of those ithyphallic
figures, proud as gods
of Egypt, most were gritty
lime- or sandstone, though worst
were sharp and porous pumice —
fit for viewing merely.
Others of polished onyx
or silky alabaster
were smooth but cold inside her,
though she grew skilled to fight
the leach of body-heat —
and skilful, too, to limit
riding vigour, thus not
to snap the stone and do
some grievous sharp-edged hurt.
She learned thus to take pleasure
from her lithic victims
(they lasted long at least)
and yet she ached; she ached
for no more making do
with frozen lust remembered,
with working up crescendoed
waves of body song;
she ached for arms around her,
men’s body and lip-passion
for hands caressing, holding,
for murmured love nightlong.
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All poems on this post: © Murray Alfredson
Published with the permission of Murray Alfredson