You hear a song, say, at the Ió-popoi festival
holding that a new addition to the alphabet
has been fashioned by the magus, Epicharmus.
He appeared at court before the tyrant
and his invention glowed, like smaragdus
then leapt off tongues like popoi, dah!
The other one—that Pindar—got his comeuppance
when Korinna laughed at him: "One should sow
with the hand, not the whole sack."
Yet he continued to pour everything into that ototototoi
to which he refused to give a false bottom:
His "circumlocutions, allusive references, metaphors,"
not to mention his sudden curtailments
and digressions, served a "highly artificial idiom."
"Dissonance;" "big, long words;" "grand rhythms;"
these made him famous, and his complex metrics
gave his work the impression, as Horace said,
of a rushing river, "freed from rules."
An aristocratic nature does not like to be constrained
to the fewest syllables. His subjects encompassed
gods and men and horses, all victorious.
As a dog rambles, its nose a coquette granting
equitable attentions to the savory and fetid,
I sift for truth among these airs
much as I define necessary by the yardstick
of my own pleasure: Cold weather sweeps down
from the articulate clouds, thrilling invisible
peacock feathers from goosebumps,
and the dead man's fingers of a poncho
as I stride across fields of live oak, catch samples.
But with a fluency that derives from wine
mulled with the occasional cicada
hauled from buckets upwards of a ferris wheel,
obedient letters with beating hearts
fed on wild grass and perfectly capable
of transmitting that wavelength angels blindfold
make mockery of my attempts to scale
contrapuntals down to a monody.
Then stone wears me scintillant.
Abroad, Epicharmus' device infiltrated papyri,
and hid the truth that the zeta derived
from a mark used to designate a weapon.
Epicharmus turned his gifts to the writing of comedy.
A story circulated about the Sybarites.
They had taught their horses to dance,
so when the Crotonites wanted to take them,
they pulled out their pipes and danced the animals,
with their riders still on their backs, into desertion.
Just so—Epicharmus implied—this zeta.
And went from festival to festival with his comedies
as Celts take up their arms to meet the waves.
From the bushes
corollaed with burn comes
the smell of thanks:
hosewater runs off the night
into the packed earth
barren even, it seems,
of insect ranks.
Whetted palmettoes catch at Cassandra,
their hard shine
like that of Achaean visors
on the dusty
'Sandra as god of rain,
whose totem sound's guttergush,
not thunder from afar.
'Sandra running off at the mouth,
hosewater the epigrams
her green hordes
take to the arena of vegetable war.
ADMONITION FOR MY CHILDREN
Imagine the touch of shore
after so long—;
figure in windcheater
spear aimed at pink Arcturus,
the beating heart of Scorpio.
Bear in mind the astronomer,
who navigates you through
Along with swimming lessons,
Someday you may find yourself
on a boat,
negotiating the zodiac:
out of nowhere, ID'ing
caught in the hairs of