A Fayum Portrait
For Euphrosyne Doxiadis
I saw you last night in Aromas,
the taverna between garages at the end of town,
decked out in your best dress, long glittering earrings,
a wreath of gold across your brow.
I couldn’t stop gazing at your aquiline beauty,
and listened closely, wanting to catch your name.
Nor could I sleep for thinking about you.
Then today looking at a book on the Fayum Portraits
I saw you again wearing the vermilion dress, green scarf,
the same garland of gold.
Across your portrait were the words:
Eirene … may her soul rise before Osiris … For ever –
written by a high priest working at the edge of the desert
in the time of Caligula,
at what must have seemed the end of things.
But all I could see was the fierce melancholy of your eyes –
and in my mind the image of wheat,
ripe white seed heads, the black loam beneath.
The Church of a Hundred Doors.
And from the town
each man and woman comes to kiss
the bleeding wound of Christ,
and over their heads a canopy of candles and flowers:
Resurrection of the body
and life everlasting. After Golgotha,
And now the rose petals swirling over our heads
and the hypnotic cadence
of midnight bells melting into a universe
too large to be ritualised
Faithless among the faithful, I stand wide-eyed.
Is it that I need a kind of eschatology,
to laud the cliff-edge flowers of wilderness:
marguerites, crimson poppies,
wild grass swelling with violet seed?