Argonauta Argo

This reading was recorded by Alessandro Mistrorigo for Phonodia in Venice, Italy, on the 15th of October, 2013.

Read by Philip Morre on 15 October 2013

Argonauta Argo

after Callimachus

I was once a prodigious egotistical seashell,
goddess of promontories, and now I'm all yours,
on yours, since Selenea offered me up.

Oh once I was an argonaut, the song goes,
argonauta argo, I was a paper nautilus,
and when there was wind I waved my arms

like little sails, scudding the seas,
so Aristotle thought, wrongly of course,
and Callimachus who might have known better.

When a glassy calm, a calm of glass, prevailed,
and the Nereid smiled idly over the ocean,
I rowed lustily with my tentacles,

I lived into my name, until I was finally
beached on a beach at Kea in the Cyclades
and had surely been kakavia

by daybreak were I not old and chewy;
and now, and now, I'm a bauble in your temple,
Arsinoë, I'm an empty envelope,

any message of love I bore an ago ago
cried through and lost, no longer a nest even
for halcyon foundlings (oh I've suffered

immodesties in my time I've seen things).
Look kindly, goddess, on the prayers
of Clinia's daughter, there's a deal of good in her,

– in the way her skirt swings
as she corners the agora –
and she comes from Aeolian Smyrna.

from The Sadness of Animals (Canterbury: San Marco Press, 2012).

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