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
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.
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
(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
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
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.