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Divan (18)


We were told that only beauty and suffering
could make us like the gods.
We learned with so much ease to lean
out of ourselves and settle in the beautiful.
The lips parted in inward amazement
were touched and remembered,
and the road flooded with moonlight
helped us locate the compassion we knew
must be buried in the corner of who we were;
it was a kind of love, but it didn’t change us.

We were told that only suffering
could fasten us to a spirit
quick enough for tolerance to be mastered,
but by then we were already bent toward
depending too much on our overburdened luck.
The moths at night flew through us,
and the snakes kept away from our light.
The crickets in the grass were our music,
and the cool air above the lake renewed us.
All this we reveled in, but when we awoke
with our mouths parched from wine
and our hands knotted from the strain of our labor,
we were desperate again for the night
and for the wine that would turn our eyes
from the thoughts of what we were
to the gods we might become.

Our youth passed away as a cloud,
and our summers, once so full of scents,
seemed short because they could no longer hold
the compassion that filled our half-formed selves.
And in the sixth year of drought
we went to the mountain to drink wine,
and the youngest among us
stood at the edge of the abyss and cried out:

“I am the brother of Dionysus,
and these are the children of Zeus!
We are the inheritors of life’s elixir
and of the stars of the western sky!”

But the red moon was unimpressed;
it rose over the valley with its head
held high like an angel of raging fire.


This poem is part of a collection called ‘Divan.’

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