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This poem is taken from PN Review 24, Volume 8 Number 4, March - April 1982.

Three Poems David Constantine


Lasithi: notable for windmills. Summits are
  The petals of Lasithi and their snow
Streams underground. Ten thousand mills, sailing like toys,
  Crank it to surface into troughs. At dawn
The families come down to a lake of mist. Women
  In black unmoor and swivel the bare crosses
To feel the wind. The rods blossom and in its throat
  A well reaches for water like a man
Strangling. It mounts like birdsong then-oh lovely work
  Of slowly scooping sails-it fills the reed,
The wells respire, the cisterns wait like mares and when
  In leaps, crashing like laughter, water comes,
A full wellbeing ascends and wets the walls and brims and
  Down the runnels like amusement overflows
Under the leaves, along the root-courses, and men
  Go about with hoes gently conducting it.

After the evaporation of the mist, under
  The sheer sun, under descending eagles,
Rimmed with snow, veined silvery with water and laced
  With childish flowers, the plateau works. The mills
Labour like lilies of the field, they toil and spin
  Like quivering cherry trees in one white orchard.

'Standing behind you . . .'

Standing behind you in the looking-glass
I saw my foolish admiration cross
Your own dispassionate appraisal of your dress.
I met your eyes, I saw you wished me gone,
I thought of that man by the Zappeion
Who likewise could not let you be in peace.

I had gone looking for a sanctuary of Pan
Along the dry Ilissos, you by the drinking-fountain
Sat eating cherries. I had gone
Looking unsuccessfully for a relief of Pan and he
Meanwhile, your gentleman of the Zappeion,
Was proffering you his member round an ilex tree.

Brother of mine, the Nymphs will not come down
To dead Ilissos, nor can you watch at home
A girl before her glass from nakedness become
Clothed like a stranger at the drinking-fountain
Nor watch her put off every ornament again
Saving a jewelry of cherries. I can,

I do. Yet I imagine being found
One day in shrubs below her window or by stairs
She might descend or shuffling after her in queues,
Eyes down, with cunning mirrors on my shoes.
I think it will amaze the officers
To learn what lady I have importuned.
'The trees here . . ."

The trees here, though the wind leave off, never unbend.
Likewise when he sat the stick retained
The shape of the sixty years he had limped and leaned.
He would haul from under the bed with the crook-end

His bundle of photographs and the soldier's pay-book,
The usual service-medals and a card or two in silk.
The marriage bed was draped to the floor like a catafalque
And he hauled the War from under it. And when he spoke

Of the craters at Ypres he used the pool on Pool Green
As measure, and the island's entanglement of brambles when
He spoke of the wire. He rose, drinking gin,
Massive, straighter than his stick, and boys were shown

At the hoisting of his trouser up the sunless calf
A place that shrank like Lazarus from being raised,
A flesh the iron seemed only lately to have bruised.
And if one, being bidden and not in disbelief,

Put in the hand to prove him right who bet
That he was past hurt there-probing appalled
In that still weeping place the fingers rolled
Wondering between them an angle of iron grit.

For year by year his flesh, till he was dead,
Evicted its shrapnel, as the living ground
Puts out for the Parson or the Schoolmaster to find,
Scouring at leisure, another arrow head.

This poem is taken from PN Review 24, Volume 8 Number 4, March - April 1982.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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