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).