(Makron School, around 350BC)
At the archive we are allowed access
only to the long tail
For there they keep the perfect specimens
locked away behind armoured glass:
Kraters, kylikes and lekithoi
from Grecian tombs sealed off like humidors.
they meditate now in Perspex chapels
high priests of history's diglossia.
We may instead, fumble wonderfully
with piece after piece of faulty clay the rubble
of yesterday's intentions
having wormed through dirt
to the archaeologist's trowel
where in musty box files
their journeys falter and sag like a palsy.
Of Makron's wreckage remain scalene and rhomboid scraps:
the hind legs of a bull a crown of snakes
a woman's arms picking grapes
assorted genitalia a sandal.
I press one of these strangers between my fingers
like a poker chip fondly as the nose of my favourite niece
revealing a man's beard cut like an eagle's wing
then the handle of a parasol then my eagle again.
How the archivists must want
to slide this shard
back into its own resurrection to roll
these pebbles across the mouth of the cave
where in perfection its voice is lost?
But what would they preserve?
Footsteps in the sand do not survive the tide
and if later we walk in them
we shall not see the same wave twice.
Instead give me these thrice-fired
so that I may feel the dark
the anger of the kiln at its birth the shame
when the kottabos lees missed their mark
and the cup's fate
was yoked to a young man's heart:
Its splintered edges scimitar against my thumb
testing out a new fit opening skin like a book
russet page and fragment
breaking presently on the archive carpet
where each part blunts infinitesimally
the angles of saddles to the past.