Gandhara

by Larry Smith

The sculptor who accompanied Alexander the Great to the Peshawar basin muses on the triumph of the Hellenes…  

.

Undid the Aspasioi

undid the Assakenoi

undid other Assakenoi at Aornos

undid the Asanenoi at Attock

then with Ambhi to Archosia

Alexander poked so far through

to this underbelly or heart of you

that our imaginings make of you and yours

all that can be seen of ourselves in the same sun

risen once in ancient days from the primal night

which first we further poked past Issus

where the Achaemenid satraps started their crumble.

It was I scion and messenger

gave your god his face

transformed your darkling

so east will be east again nevermore

nor need ancient suns ever rise anew.

Behold your redeemer,

I’ve him lying as if with Alcibiades and Aristophanes,

I have given folds to his robe, Apollo’s braids atop his head.

I have cast alpha all along and on and on

so nevermore the primal night again;

your darkling yearning primal night for good

lives now for good in the conquering light of a defining day,

is reborn forever and again in the glare of my sunlit eye.

Your god, my creation.

 

.

What sights on way to this the eternal day

the white mountains to the south and east that seemed to crush heaven,

to the west a desert like the sky itself stretched to the limits of all that is

above,

the river to the north rejoicing through hushed waste –

everywhere this same earth yielding the same fruits we used to know,

maize and peach and wheat and grape.

Only olives were missing.

Dandelions,

the outcry when he married her your princess our queen,

she smelled like dandelions for miles and miles around her,

we smelled her coming every time she came

when he’d her ensconced at Susa, her a fifth column of the East or so our

infuriated generals bewailed.

When he died it was as if it was some dark mystery in the perfumes of a

rising moon or setting sun

to which he succumbed.

Roxana then murdered Staeira straightaway, and Drypteris, and Parysatis

too.

(Roxana was Bactrian but that murderous way was of course a

Macedonian way anyway.)

One boy he’d been given in Taxila, I personally hid;

no political threat to her yet she would have sensed the passion he would

have had and would have had him killed for the fury of it.

I hid the kid inside one of those odd oblong containers they have here for

domicile, fondled him too

as a kind of toast to joy on the day I finished it, my first standing Buddha,

the lovely one with the great Greek hair.

 

 

When I created his face,

I did think of you

but not so much of your kindness,

not that itself.

not of your learned devotions,

not your great gestural significations,

not so much that, the Fear Not,

or the calling upon the mother, or the pantomimed wheel,

none of that,

I did think of you in a general way, sort of,

I wanted to come up with a face many men might venerate

including those who like you abhor ontology

and would rather not dream when you sleep.

Anyway, I hope you like the hair and the soft furrows in the hard stone

though it means the sun shines now forever in consequence of our

merciless clarifications.

In any event, most people do seem to like the face

which is good to know, especially now as new forces are at play,

Ambhi being dead, murdered, as in Taxila a new power on the rise

bears now this image, the very face I made, across the continent.

 

 

Am I in error

is the world somehow round

such that all east is finally the west and all west is finally the east

and the city Odysseus razed from his horse was itself Athens somewhere

elsewhere –

and what of these seafaring Canaanites in purples woven from the east,

the new city they build on the northern shore of the southern continent

confronts the new temples of our risen city they’ll attack from the north

– the north! –

in an utter outflanking of the sun,

or man as measure of things disrobed and disarmed by Eastern queens

who, riddle this, lo and behold be Macedonian at last, such be the flooding

infestations of Roxana’s inexorable blood,

her Bactrian coagulations in queenly future bodies.

The generals were right, he should never have married her

howbeit he’d swoon soon enough allowing some other such infestation.

Meanwhile these Mauryans seeking new empire bear the very face I made,

worship it across the continent,

seeking new empire seek in the very face I made the eternal dreamless

sleep which ends all empire.

I should return to Arcadia where my parents used to live,

I should reorder my thinking,

I fear the omens of this moon

which waxes now prouder and whiter in its unreasoning darkness than a

thousand shooting stars,

and what man is hero enough to never gaze on the moon

and let tumble the sun he carries from its zenith?

Greeks don’t die easy but die they do.

 

 

 

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