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

Lisa Gorton

Lisa Gorton

Lisa Gorton, who lives in Melbourne, is a poet, novelist, and critic, and a former Poetry Editor of ABR. She studied at the Universities of Melbourne and Oxford. A Rhodes Scholar, she completed a Masters in Renaissance Literature and a Doctorate on John Donne at Oxford University, and was awarded the John Donne Society Award for Distinguished Publication in Donne Studies. Her first poetry collection, Press Release (2007), won the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry. She has also been awarded the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize. A second poetry collection followed in 2013: Hotel Hyperion (also Giramondo). Lisa has also written a children’s novel, Cloudland (2008). Her novel The Life of Houses (2015) shared the 2016 Prime Minister’s Award for fiction. She is the editor of The Best Australian Poems 2013 (Black Inc.).