The Visit to the Colossoi of Memnon, Day 1


On this day the colossoi do not speak.
The voice does not resound.
We came to hear the gods,
and the gods were silent.
Only the river continues to run, as ever.
Sometimes the oracle does not answer,
the gods do not speak,
the wisdom of the past
has nothing to say to us.
Sometimes we wait for a sign
that does not come, a feeling
that is not felt, a moment
that never ripens. And yet,
the only solution is to try
again: To remain faithful
to the tradition, to wait
with patience for the answer,
to come again tomorrow
and hope the ancient statues
will sing.


A belated offering to Memnon

I had wanted to compose this yesterday, which was Memnon’s hero-feast, and I failed to do so. I still wanted to do it this morning, and so I did write the poem and post it now, late but sincere.

To the hero Memnon
Noblest of warriors, son of the dawn,
fathered by the withered old man
who cannot die, Memnon the Ethiopian,
I salute you. Son of the dawn,
dark-skinned and beautiful,
show us your face: In every
hooded young boy
walking down the street,
in every black man
shot without questions,
in every fine actor
confined to thug roles,
in every angry poet
overlooked, sneered at,
in every poor black man
suffering at the hands of doctors,
in every black hero
forgotten by history,
Memnon, most beautiful,
son of the dawn, noblest
of warriors, show us your face,
and when we ask you, give us
your hand, aid us in the fight.

And while I was writing this, I realized I knew of a living person, a public figure, who perfectly fit my mental image of the hero:


John Boyega, whom I had not heard of before his starring as Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but whom I will not soon forget. He can act, *and* he can rock a fedora.

Dead boys and pretty flowers

If dead boys still became flowers,
every sidewalk in America
would be split with roots.
In Baltimore, Freddie Gray;
in New York City, Eric Harris;
in Ferguson, Mike Brown.
Brown skin and black hair
and white, human bones
lying everywhere, and not even
a chalk outline: Execution
is no murder. O goddess Flora,
is every flower a death?
is every bloom a tragedy?
Narcissus, Hyacinth, Crocus
joined by Michael, Eric, Freddie,
Trayvon Martin standing with
Polydeukion, young Memnon,
young Achilles. O goddess Flora,
help us make sense, help us
to mourn as well as rejoice
in a world where every flower
is an open vulva, is a dead boy.

There are race riots in my city tonight

A Prayer to Memnon in the midst of civil disorder

Speak to us, O Memnon, son of Tithonos, son of Eos.
Speak to us, prince of Ethiopia, son of the Dawn.
Speak with the voice of your colossus, raised in the land of Egypt.
Speak with the voice of a black-skinned man
who was not known as black, as colored, as a negro,
but as a prince, a warrior, a hero.
Speak, warrior who fought beside the Trojans in defence of their city,
who fell at the hand of Achilles after a mighty combat.
Speak, and tell us how to make peace.
Speak, and tell us how to make justice.
Speak, and tell us how to dismantle the lies of race and privilege.
Speak, and give us the wisdom of a true hero.
I pray to you tonight from the middle of Baltimore,
from the heart of a divided city, from a city in fear of violence,
from a place where just anger has turned to riots
that harm the harmless, that do nothing toward the good.
And yet the anger is justified. And yet people are in fear.
Memnon, I have not prayed to you before, but I pray to you now.
Hear the plea of one who is a lover of Antinous and send help to my city.