A Poet Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

But this is Greece, more like Provence than Britanny.
To one side, dusty and dry, clustered thistles, cornflower-blue,
and grey-green olive trees shimmering like aspens;
on the other, a strip of beach, a narrow sparkling sea,
blue mountains in the distance:
Evia, island of rest. Evia, yes –

for this is not just any beach, this is Avlis
where Great Agamemnon, the hundred ships
of his sea-faring Achaeans trapped in the gulf,
prayed for a north wind. And waited. And prayed.
And finally, in desperation – Great Kings do not wait –
he offered up his daughter to the gods. Here on this beach
Iphigenia’s throat was cut and blood poured
over her breast and onto the sand and in disgust
the west wind raged: raged, but blew.
For Agamemnon and Odysseus, sailors, that would do.

In the 1940s, British soldiers fought
on these rocks and in those olive groves
(when the only sea I knew was the grey North Sea).
Now all are gone (though not all are forgotten:
I leave the beach by a narrow lane named –
on a dusty board, who knows how old? –
Odos Iphigenia), and soon all will be gone who saw
children die, by the million this time, not just one,
for Hitler, another Fűhrer or Great King, though for him
the wind did not blow.
Perhaps if he had sacrificed his own daughter –
if he had had a daughter –
if he had been a man. Which Agamemnon undoubtedly was.
All gone, as I and all my generation will soon be gone.

The date is nothing; as part of history I feel better.
Like Hitler and those British soldiers,
I was a man of the twentieth century.
In the twenty-first, I am a guest.

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