"Repenting Magdalene," Geroges de la Tour, 1637, WikiArt Photo.
“Repenting Magdalene,” Geroges de la Tour, 1637, WikiArt Photo.

Part 1: Cynara’s Dreams

In dreams, he touched me, “I am lantern,
Burning without flame or fire, my soul
Bronze burnished, neither living nor dead.”
Thus was my war-killed husband, Æleon,
Ever present in my days, glowing and night
Guarding, room-warming metallic light,
Sorrow vanquished, hope restored, solace
For grief-bound widow’s breast.

In slumber deep, Æleon reclined with me.
In time, I learnt not to startle awake for he
Would separate, lamp returning. For weeks
We were thus, until in marital anguish, we
Desired more, return of husband, flesh and
Bone, thrusting, sweat-slickened chest and
Arms, willingly war leaving, sacrificed to
Death on foreign fighting shores.

O! Cynara! Accursed is not your life to love
Husband whose light is heaven released by
Deific stars. Fate’s threshing floor, noble is
Your heart but dissatisfied. In wifely duty,
You honour Æleon and gods. Across the Great
Stretch he returned, death’s dark sea waves
His soul sailed, undaunted and enduring,
Two souls reunited in lantern light.

Tears down-falling, my grieving heart I hid
From him and myself. As were our customs,
I stripped to toil, my sickle sharp, in honour
Of Demeter. “What woman is that?” passersby
Asked, naked body sun-burnished bronze as
My husband’s light, sun down-beating, hair
Unkempt, brow sweat-worn, fatigued female
Frame, woes of battlefields and grain fields.

"Back View of Bather," Francesco Hayez, 1859, WikiArt photo.
“Back View of Bather,” Francesco Hayez, 1859, WikiArt photo.

Oxen plow-breaking furrows deep, I recalled
Æleon, his seed planted our three children,
In praise of Demeter, my breasts milk-heavy.
In perpetual seasons of decay, my womb fell
Fallow as barren winter fields. Evenings tired,
I returned to home duties, children fed, wine
And bathing by glowing lantern light, my body
Radiant, Æleon entwined and ablaze.

In this poem, Æleon has transmigrated not into another
person or animal, but into bronze lantern light, visiting
the narrator, Cynara, in her dreams. 

Written whilst listening to Franz Schubert, String Quintet in
C Major, D. 956: II Adagio, Borodin Quartet and Misha Milman.

Part 2 is: “Ancient Water-Rites.”

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