States of Poetry Series Two - Victoria | 'Aphrodite of Milos' by Lisa Gorton

Stone eidolon at the end of a walled-in colonnade –
               She was born from the sea, light
               off the foam of the sea –

               [Alex]andros son of [M]enides
               citizen of [Ant]ioch at Meander
               made [this] –
Her body rises over the crowd – She looks aside
as though at something about to happen –
               Stone in the flesh, her blank eyes
               invent distances – Stone comb marks in her hair –
               Her hair, unloosed,
               enters into the heraldry of women’s gestures –
Under her right breast a hole
where the metal strut held up her arm –
               In her left hand she held an apple –

Light sinks an inch deep into Parian marble –
The sculptor of marble is a sculptor of shadows –
               Nude upper body and base of drapery –
two blocks of Parian marble joined under its first fold –
               Drapery falls from her thighs
               like folds in water –
               like dense-packed snow
the quarry on Paros where slaves cut blocks out of the mountain,
dragged them on a road lined with marble down to the ships –

A farmer found the torso buried in a wall –
               A wall of cut stone
               floored with rubble,
the torso lying on its side half-sunk in dirt –
               The robes she dressed in to seduce Anchises
               outshone fire – shining necklaces on her soft throat,
               golden earrings in the shape of flowers –
Her arms are buried under the landslide –
               Where her arms are broken the surface is like torn paper –
A path steep downhill clutching at branches, grey-green olive trees,
grey leaves whitening from the whipped-back branch –
A soldier paid the man to keep on digging –
               They stood her in a field –
Stone heaps and broken columns, salt-pale grass –

They broke her arms off when they dragged her out –
               In her left hand she held a mirror –
They smashed her earlobes to get the earrings off –
The ambassador arrived to find men loading her onto a ship –
               The marble is scratched
               where they dragged her over the rocks –
They have searched the sea there for her broken arms –
The dragoman had the men whipped
who sold her to the ambassador – After the war broke out
the dragoman’s body hanging three days in the street –
The ambassador gave the statue to his king –

Her arms lie in a heap of broken marble in a warehouse,
hands holding out the things that tell her name –
               The mirror she holds is a polished shield –
               On the side she turns towards us, painted gold,
               a warrior runs from the burning city,
               his father clinging to his back, son crying behind –
               the sky, though made of gold, looks dark with smoke –
               The statue looks into its other side
in which there is not one thing more real than another –
rank after rank of light between the mirror and its eyes –

Lisa Gorton

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