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Asterion and the GodRobin Robertson
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Vol. 23 No. 21 · 1 November 2001
Poem

Asterion and the God

Robin Robertson

385 words

nec enim praesentior illo est deus
Asterion, his name is, King of Stars.
Some joke of his father’s, who now
stables him here in these spiralled halls,
this walled-up palace, where shame
cries itself to sleep.

Where is my mother? Why
has she left me here alone?
This is a house of many corners
but only one room, made of stone.
I live inside this stone.

See how he prowls and paces,
my beast of a boy; moving round
his world, looking at his emptiness
from new directions.
He will have a visitor soon.

Poor monster, pulling at himself,
the DNA unspooling from his hand:
white butterflies
spill into the dark.
Out of the broken comes forth brine.

Sometimes children visit, to dance here
and play leapfrog, singing loudly,
full of wine; but they break so easily
and then it is very quiet again.
Where did I lose my life?

Fretting all night at a red bone
he makes a mirror from the slick
and sees himself, at last, in the stone
of the running walls: lustral,
horned, bearded with blood.

I hear through the walls what I am,
what I do; sparagmos, they call it,
whatever that is.
They say a stranger comes
to release me. Let him come soon.

She pledged herself to me, but now
carries the crown I gave her
to light the stranger’s way. The hero
who has come to kill Asterion:
her half-brother, my son. My self.

They betray each other so perfectly:
husband to wife, wife to husband;
sister to half-brother, and now
lover to lover. The symmetries
of chaos and bliss. The mysteries.

I am the true vine,
I am the fennel stalk;
and he will be honey:
buried to the horns, his body
home to the bee-swarm.

She has gone, now, with her hero,
who is already forgetting her.
I, however, never forget. She will hang
in the night sky like a princess
from a clew of twine.

Sometimes we speak, sometimes
we let the gods speak through us.
I am half; he is twice-born.
My grief still here
and I am gone.

Imagine me as the wind – the force
animals and birds know
is there, but does not threaten:
part of their world, but other.
The god who comes; the god who disappears.

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