Here, the Children of Dark Night Have Their Dwellings

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Peter BG Shoemaker

Here, the Children of Dark Night Have Their Dwellings

Here, no rosy-fingered Dawn,
no wine dark seas,
no Troys or Trojans,
Athens or Athenians,
Spartas or Spartans.
Only dark Night, and cloying
memory, fastly held.

We were brave once—
a storied land of heroes—
men of sinew and sword,
sharp and stubborn;
women of oxen eyes and bronze-tipped spears,
true and quick.
Mother Earth did lay with us and mighty
Heaven trembled.

We faced the Gorgons when they came, force and frightful,
slew a multitude, eyes and heads at once.
The rest we chased onto their silvered ships
and burned them down to blackened stone.

The Sirens too, who came on Heaven’s whitened flame,
with salt-cured boots on breasts heaving hot,
we lashed tight their mouths ever-damned and vile.
And drove them to their mountain top
to safety’s promise, relief’s outstretched hand
then cut down each one, a raven’s feast.

We marveled first at far-come Alodae—
their cities diamond glass and molten stone,
airless beauty, perfect realm, tombs
for mighty men—
but then into vale lands on surging seas,
in hissing blood and swirling sands
we sent them down, giants ever damned.

Always thirsty Laestrygonians
and the star mind Lamos, nursery and charnel vault in one,
beyond reason crazed in the deep dry dark;
Star-spawned Hydra
and its thousand men, poisoners strong and savage
alone and far from home;
And then the Harpies hunger, winged
oracles of the world to come: each and every
ground to dirt, salt and whitened bone.

All these acts and more,
deathless memory tarnished now:
life’s golden sun gone cold, silent
stones worn with olden joys.

Endless fright-filled skies ours anew,
we turned inside,
kindled once again
the long-lost fires or hidden well
and forgot the fulsome oaths sworn on sacred signs
on mountain sides and rain-fed plains
that bound us tight as one,
victors in the far-flung war.

Broken promises birthing broken men,
timeworn plans, ash and wind,
long armed death, fingers grasping,
atoms and automatons, ancient arsenals made new.
Countless many died,
souls forsaken.

The Erinyes, black-bodied and darkness born,
fell aflame to dancing Dawn,
with dry dust howls of sudden light
and in each hand coiled, dreaded vengeance.

Came many thousand of our kin
loyal to mankind’s beacon, ancient thunder booming;
bronze-fired in morning sun
and so we stood, greave against greave,
father and son, eyes alight.

The Erinyes, black-bodied and darkness born,
mouths awash in manly blood, salt and iron,
laughed with slashing teeth and sharp shrill cries
at fearsome warriors soft and weak,
at broken oaths sworn on sacred signs,
at man’s desires and unknown hubris,
at tongues no longer one, all
adrift in fearsome timeless space.

And countless many died—
family names forgotten,
failed sacrifice—each and all,
victims. Shades beyond the river.

In realms once rich and warm
where we stood against the stars,
the children of dark Night
have their dwellings now,
and we remain—empty land,
heroes gone—
faithless and forlorn.

_______________

Peter BG Shoemaker is both a former medievalist and a former professional futurist. He gave up both to explore even stranger worlds. His subsequent essays, criticism, fiction, and poetry have been published in places as diverse as The Wall Street Journal and Potluck Magazine. He is currently working on a collection of poems mythologizing his childhood and creating a series of arts markets along the silkroad. More at www.petershoemaker.com

 

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