Robert Gauldie



A hateful journey,
Stony underfoot,
The horses stumbling so often,
We had to walk
Mile after mile into those accursed hills.
I argued with him.
Reasoned, ranted, reminded
Him of all the other women,
The songs, the feasts,
Joy, hope desire; anything
To make him change.
Hopeless. Love is madness,
To be sure, that makes the mad
Yet madder still.
He was never one for sense.
Even at the last moment
I cursed him in his folly
Begged him not to go,
But he went, singing like a nightingale
Into the twists and turns of that dark-greened gaping hole.

I waited, sleepless.
At night it stinks; you cannot
Risk to sleep so near the dead.
At night, especially, surrounded
By cypress, cunning-cruel,
That would steal your mind.
I feared for the horses,
Kept them hobbled
And sat sword-drawn
In the darkness.
God knows what use a sword against the dead.

In the dawn he returned,
His eyes stricken,
His face as grey as ashes
And his harp silent.
I looked for marks upon him
To see if some dark evil
Had bitten him; to suck his blood
Or worse, to leave him lingering
Like one half-dead among the living,
So, it is said, the dead have their revenge.

The horses, thank the Gods,
Bore us away swiftly,
Sure-footed in their desire
To retreat from that dark hole.

I wanted to go west,
By the low road,
To find taverns; wine, wine,
I was as dry
As any wooden God.
But no; the only words he spoke
Were to take the high road.
It was a madness, surely,
But I was weary, and him so strange.
We passed by Cadmus' grave
And there the thought struck me
He had been cursed,
That we should turn and run,
But it was too late.
The lateness of the hour
Had darkened the road
And all those naked women,
Howling sluts, pigs-cunts,
Just fell upon him, some even with their teeth
Splattering each other with his blood
Laughing and yelling,
Rubbing their bloodied tits at me
Shouting and yelling, a fuck, a fuck,
a greek fuck.
I turned and rode away.

Now I live here.
There are no women in this house.
My brother has four sons,
And I three dogs,
Rough hounds from Macedonia,
Whose three great slavering heads
Keep strangers from my gate.
As if those stupid superstitious louts
Would ever dare the door of Polydorus,
Who, in their own rumour,
Stood at the gate of hell.
Little do they know.


It was evening, with birds far-away singing,
And shadows deepening the hills,
Marking that greater dark against the darkness.
Polydorus, glum, watched silent the stringing of the lute.
Only his eyes saying don't go. It's madness,
Folly, to sacrifice a mind for a woman dead.
God knows, how many loose-hipped women
Polydorus knew and valued far below a friend.

I was convinced. That hard-eyed bitch at Delphis
Never lied; for all her treachery and fucking-up with
Total strangers. God knows how, in Apollo's sacred name
She always spoke the truth across the altar.
Costly it might be, but true; whether that she-bitch or you
Might ever wish it otherwise.
So it was, that one hand should send shivering
A glittering cascade of notes, lightening the cypresses,
And staying the moaning dog against the door.

I had expected heat: flames and pain unbearable.
But it was nothing like that.
All around me there were whispers: begging, pleading, pleading,
"Please, please, believe me. What I say is true, true, true."
Far and near, the insistent desperation of the dead
Struggling to touch me across the music's shimmering guard,
Struggling to suck me, devour me, from cock to forelock,
Desperate to take a living life to live again.
"Oh, please, please, believe me." Oh, the horror of those
Endless, lying, lifeless, rotting, desperate, dying liar’s lives.

I can't remember how it ended. Leaving? Standing?
Looking back? One last, long, lingering look
And then through that agonising hole back into life,
With Polydorus crying; weeping on my shoulder
Saddling for that long, bitter, ride to Thebes.


His face so longed-for
And the lingering caress of his eyes,
Awakening long-forgotten memories.
Desire in the green and sunshine,
Summer: scent-laden and already bowed
With the reddening ripeness of coming fruit.
His hands, warming to touch
Amongst those cold grey shades,
Stirring the pulse of love.
His voice calling, Orpheus' song, the silver flow
Of rain and water in that waterless stone world.

But all around the pressing dead shudder;
Newly awakened with fear, their eyes begging,
Weeping tearless tears for me to stay, stay
Stay safe among the shades,
Life's cruel torments dimmed by Lethe's anodyne.
Stopping their ears against Orpheus' song, the carmine flow
Reeking of blood and death in this scentless, deathless, cold stone world.

With all these catching at my heart, I followed,
Until at last, that long, last, lingering look;
His eyes filling with love and fear, life and death,
Desire and dependency.
And so I chose to stay,
Returning with those faceless faces
To a life already lived and loved.
All pains forgotten, all sins absolved.


My uncle Polydorus
Lived here, with us, beside the sea.
Here, with his three beloved dogs,
Swimming in the sea,
Every day.
I never knew a man so obsessed
With cleanliness, always washing his hands,
His face, even his silly dogs.

Some say he was embittered,
Paying out his time, waiting to die;
But I never saw it.
I only remember him laughing
Every day.
I never knew a man so funny
Always finding humour all around him,
Even at his own expense.

He avoided women,
That much is true: it was love,
He said. He loved them overmuch.
A man's love is a woman's weapon,
He said.
Soon they will dominate you,
Break your will, lead you into quiet acceptance.
Old loves must die before they can love anew,
And so it goes.


Polydorus, famous cook,
Cheesemaker, vintner,
Turning sweetmeats and grape leaves
Into spicy delectations in the clutter
Of firewood, water pots, broken stones
And dried-out scraps littering
The path to flyblown privy.

He watches the road,
His house a vantage point,
A red and rocky hill above the sea,
Enough for cooling airs and view caerulean
Shimmering molten into the setting sun.

Maricella twirls her fork,
Delicately. Her dainty lips nibble pasta
Her eyes across the wine glass
Pooled with desire
Reflecting the slow, dark evening's
Languorous, slumberous turns.

He watches the road,
And waits, perspiring at his task, observant ever
Among the wineblown laughter of his guests
His mind half-absent turning eastward,
Waiting, patient.

Marcantonio strums,
Rolling all his flabby cheeks
And sentimental belly
Into soaring declamations of celestial delights
Of love undying.
Stops abruptly.
Scratches, sucks noisily a glowing golden strega.

He watches the road,
Where creaking sign brings travelers to weary halt
Beside the tumbling hedgerows, polyglot flowers,
Plangent profusion across the narrow neck
From waspy grapes to dusty road.
Moon shadows pass across his hands,
And stars creep furtively across the sky,
But nothing sleeps. The flowers watch,
Leaves touching in the shadows,
Still, redolent; languid perfumes pass
Across each other's path and fill the air
With messages and sighs.


Esme's mother Sibyl, born in Cumea,
Appollonius her father, a taxi driver in Piraeus
Working from dawn to dusk.
Esme loves to fuck.
Finding boyfriends in the wine bars
By the Church of Saint Anselm the Paraclete
Providing blessing between her legs
For penitential pence and chocolates.

Sibyl's hair is black.
She never ages; passing all that time
With cards, turning prophecies from jacks and queens.
Mr. Tibererio smiles;
Admires his slicked back hair, never sees
His dried out dugs and dowagers hump.
Rouged, he winks at sailors
Below the walls at Thebes
Throbbing with trucks, trams and roaring motorbikes.

Discoroides plays the flute
Clustering notes like the birds of Tereu,
Nightingales singing sweetly, sifted through the clatter
Of knives and forks; Esme's sister Thetis
Serves souvlaki and chips, dodging boots and dogs
With slender feet, silvering her pocket with smiles.
Mr. Syrinx works the kitchen, never speaking;
Excepting Wednesdays, when, pythaic,
He dictates the menu,
Forecasting order amongst the breadsticks and dusty retsinas,
Turning Tuesday's circumstances into profit.

Bob Gauldie is a scientist who is reasonably well-known in the little pond of fish science (http://robert.gauldie.com). Bob has also paid his dues in the tribal world of University Administration; always an environment that encourages one to be philosophical.

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