BB & RS
The City State
Remember in Corinth, walking home from the piers, wet
in the aftermath of a squall? Through the meat packing
streets, under bigger hooks blood slick on the sandals, across
the garment district: bone buttons, stronger cord or—-what
more did you need?—-hard rolls, then fish and flowers in
descending sectors, aspirin and batteries in your arms
for the apartment. Remember answering machines? The gods,
be they pleased, of whichever specific needs, accommodating
singly. Barnaby, after the tone, this is the guy from the grove.
Peaches are in. Snap beans (ping in the bowl). Good surprises
if you hike up into the higher coppices with me in mind.
Along the manifold fulfillment of local plans, outlanders
often strode through hollering, singing the uncertain song,
and so we expected we knew the words—-any deities
to propitiate, la la—-when, in the melody familiar, the man
and a youth drew us to the window. Good news they called up,
delivery. Emissaries broadcasting a smirk, saying what still
from the sill we could only oversee. Remember how soon
we’d see none of the old options applied. Talk. Listen. Door.
I do this one thing all day long and so do you, I know, first
Corinthians. I squat on the fire escape for better connection.
BB & RS
I should have written sooner. We wish you hadn’t. So fraught
and breathless, Paul, you bring the end of sympathies,
touch and likeness and spread and sacrifice, and soon enough
we will be instructed to pledge E Pluribus Unum.
In the wings, the boy Timothy, chaste and listening.
Good news? Strange news? How tragic that you are so absolutely right,
but in the smallest way. This multiplicity is a mess, Corinth…
When I was a child, Corinth…
Sounds like philosophy. We are not children and we like
the mess, but the notion of a singular force—-
and we entertain notions—-is useful, as much as dreams are useful,
and playfulness. Babies, srsly—-
my recent gig in Macedonia went
gangbusters. Can we agree to spot the bullshit? Your pantheon
is a candy mountain with action figures. Leave it.
Emissary of shut it the fuck down. You are not the first wanderer
to arrive proudly with his upload of gospel.
Consolidate your debts. Fixed rate. One god, one verb.
There is rain and there are rivers
and separately there is the sea. Water, all of it. Perhaps.
What does the land know? What has the water seen? The water sees
boats, the land knows hooves and war and we know
many loves, Paul. Allegories of the one true thing, boys.
Prophesy or magical thinking. Unify and
pick a side before the Romans get here. Paul 1, Corinthians 0.
BB & RS
A screen grab, a capture, from the video chat:
you can sense it on your partner’s laptop
across the line. He doesn’t tell you, doesn’t
ask. It’s his, your image, evidently. It comes
across. You’re not like other men. Shift
function something. Now and again. He lights up
a little in the silent flash is how you know.
The shuttle to Phoenix is long and dark.
The pretense of sleep is understood as such.
Have you been on this trip before? Alone right
next to someone under his headphones.
His reading the book I held, his knowing I
noticed, his squirm, hard swallow, and then
lights out, my light following his. What about
you? Have you been on this trip before?
The book is different afterward. In this book
Miltiades seems to Darius every bit as exquisite
a charioteer as any in his hire. He turns the captive
Persian. In leather jesses and bracelets
in this book the raptor on the new groom’s arm
bates when he spooks and demands the patience
the former pedagogue had made of disrepute
and found a book in his retreat on falconry.
Down there on a visit.
In Hell I went once to Chinatown, took my seat
in the waiting room, with what I thought was Herpes
in my jeans. In our sick and busy midst, a child was
wavering, for hours, mid-sneeze, in the broken clinic video
there was no choice but to tolerate until triage,
(in frames the boy could not advance relief)
then wait again (still) longer hours until
the doctor was ready to shame you. Results a week
later: it had been only chafing from frottage.
It was sort of Greek, later I realized, what I’d do
and whatnot. I was, like a lot of boys, like you,
disinclined past a certain point but thought often I might
have ruined my adulthood. I sought out other saboteurs
(the world does not run out) by that putty smell,
the good of youth, the good rubbed off. Tutelage
becomes the search for yourself inside another.
BB & RS
This guy Darius, he runs Persia.
(Herodotus can prove it.) This other guy is running Greece.
The Phoenicians mostly float among them
trying to be helpful. The Phoenicians brought to Greece
a lot of learning, notably the alphabet, which nobody there knew.
To Persia, they brought sailors, the best sailors.
Keenest is the word. The Greeks put vowels
into the alphabet. The Persians put boats into the sea.
Inevitable conflict. Greeks were pulled into battle
with Persians, attacked Phoenicians, variously,
and won, for a while. Some Greeks (the Ionians)
fled in fear (their cowardice was a big deal)
and the Phoenicians, on a roll, and Darius, saying keep it going,
burned cities and then more cities and the people
fled farther. And then a boy. The Phoenicians pick up this boy—-
son of a charioteer—-and bring him back to Darius.
Something about this boy. Strange beautiful boy.
Darius took him prisoner and gave him
everything. It’s hard, when confronted with youth and grace,
to remain villainous. I kid you not. You can build a church
inside a boy. You can continue your works, your best
and vital works, in the heart of an intelligent boy.
No one can stop the vigor of young oomph. Ask Zeus,
he turned into an eagle to seize a boy and make him
immortal. I’m attracted to the situation. It seems
disingenuous, and yet, if the choice is Salome or Master—-
or what I’d like to be versus the worst of what I am—-
then give me a safeword and no permanent injuries.
Zeus had absolute power, which leads to
absolute generosity. You must touch with the least amount
of pressure necessary, now that you’re responsible
for everything. The Master is the one undone.
BB & RS
According to Herodotus
The Phoenicians were good at trenches. A channel
with steep sides often broke, they saw, so
they knew to widen out near the lip.
If they were digging waterways, about twice as wide
as volume demanded was optimal
With bridges, not so much. Built a couple crossing
a strait, one made of flax, and the other,
papyrus. That is history. A paper bridge
didn’t hold, though, after a storm, doesn’t. That
is engineering. The final chariot
is the chariot befitting the king, carted right up
to overlook what he had arranged
to surpass. Wouldn’t. That is policy.
A people far from sovereign.
Good at trenches, bad at bridges.
On the job after the ransack and pillage
of another people. Only in Arizona and only now
is Phoenician a demonym. I mean, what I heard is
there was no Phoenix home
to Phoenicians destroying Greece
for Persia. Only a story of a bird upstart
where another had burned. Demonym has its own
Wikipedia page. The word is
twenty-two years old. Imagine your own
twenty-two year old [demonym here] here:
curly hair, lashes, headphones if you like
tell him, learning where he’s from,
what he is. Now imagine
learning where he’s from, being what you are,
sending him back. That is
BB & RS
About the Boats
Boat. War. Song. Wine.
There is a sound inside the word.
Fighting. Many. Fire. Drowning.
We wanted to find that sound.
To love a man, you must find the boy
inside him. To love a boy, you must
unclench your fist and set down
your weapons. All men carry within
themselves the boys they have been,
their childish dreams, their earliest
wounds. A man betrays himself
when he smiles widely.
It isn’t fair to love someone. It isn’t fair.
There is a sound inside the word still
open to interpretation; a personal sigh,
not yet a common language, meaning
in the slosh, an exhalation between
the consonants. Tutelage is the search
for yourself inside another. Fatherhood
when the boys approach each other.
War, when the boys have nothing in common.
What does one do with a beautiful boy?
The options: protect or ravage. Thunderous options.
Timothy. Ganymede. Miltiades.
Anyway, a boy makes his own storm clouds.
Do not underestimate me. I was not helpless.
Nothing was founded inside me that I did not request.