The King of Asine
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THE KING OF ASINE Άσίνην re . . . ILIAD* We looked all morning round the citadel* starting from the shaded side, there where the sea green and without luster—breast of a slain peacock— received us like time without an opening in it. Veins of rock dropped down from high above, twisted vines, naked, many-branched, coming alive at the water's touch, while the eye following them struggled to escape the tiresome rocking, losing strength continually. On the sunny side a long open beach and the light striking diamonds on the huge walls. No living thing, the wild doves gone and the king of Asine, whom we've been trying to find for two years now, unknown, forgotten by all, even by Homer, only one word in the Iliad and that uncertain, thrown here like the gold burial mask. You touched it, remember its sound? Hollow in the light like a dry jar in dug earth: 135 the same sound that our oars make in the sea. The king of Asine a void under the mask everywhere with us everywhere with us, under a name: " Άσίιτην re . . . Άσίντην re . . ." and his children statues and his desires the fluttering of birds, and the wind in the gaps between his thoughts, and his ships anchored in a vanished port: under the mask a void. Behind the large eyes the curved lips the curls carved in relief on the gold cover of our existence a dark spot that you see traveling like a fish in the dawn calm of the sea: a void everywhere with us. And the bird that flew away last winter with a broken wing: abode of life, and the young woman who left to play with the dogteeth of summer and the soul that sought the lower world squeaking and the country like a large plane-leaf swept along by the torrent of the sun with the ancient monuments and the contemporary sorrow. And the poet lingers, looking at the stones, and asks himself 136 does there really exist among these ruined lines, edges, points, hollows, and curves does there really exist here where one meets the path of rain, wind, and ruin does there exist the movement of the face, shape of the tenderness of those who've shrunk so strangely in our lives, those who remained the shadow of waves and thoughts with the sea's boundlessness or perhaps no, nothing is left but the weight the nostalgia for the weight of a living existence there where we now remain unsubstantial, bending like the branches of a terrible willow-tree heaped in permanent despair while the yellow current slowly carries down rushes up­ rooted in the mud image of a form that the sentence to everlasting bitterness has turned to marble: the poet a void. Shieldbearer, the sun climbed warring, and from the depths of the cave a startled bat hit the light as an arrow hits a shield: " Άσίνην re . . . Άσίνην re . . ." Could that be the king of Asine *37 we've been searching for so carefully on this acropolis sometimes touching with our fingers his touch upon the stones. Asine, summer '38-Athens, Jan. '40 138 ...


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