Stav Poleg's 'Athena of the City'

From Athena of the city

Athena of the city,

there’s no Acropolis here, in what August
makes out of this place,

upturned umbrellas and wind of high-pitch, the summer
of sales and last-chances.

So I try and travel the cities of London
as if you’ve never left. In every street and site-specific,

under the sky’s uncertainties of moon, I look for
all the things you are: actors wakeful as cities, eagles of the sea,

or tour-guides as things-on-hold. But when you finally arrive,
looking like a miscast leading-lady

in a city with no particular protagonist, exchanging smoke
for stories, but holding the plot like the wings

of a restless horse, I know it’s you, it must be you,
but I can hardly recognise your face.

Boarding card, occupation

Where should I start?

Showing the way from Troy to Ithaca. (Tour-guide?)

A young girl. A shepherd. An image. (Actress?)

A northern wind. A cloud. A sea-eagle. (Winter?)

Goddess. Let’s put it as goddess. (Goddess?)

Home was it?

– Where have you been all this time?  
– I’ve been showing Odysseus the way, haven’t I?

– I thought he’d already –
– He never finds it.

– But according to the book –
– You and your books and ideas
                          of people looking for home, ending up

                          finding it. It’s August. Everyone’s away and
                          everywhere. Go outside, order Kir Royale to start with,
                          celebrate something outrageous, or
                          failing that,

                          go for outdoor activities. Not so much as
                          out-of-doors but out of here, whichever name
                          you’ve given it. Home was it,
                          or memory?

Instead of reading

– I went to the British Museum
– That’s not what I meant.
– to look for you.
– I once went to the pool to look for myself.
– Past the upper-floor galleries
– I hoped I’d fall in love with the image,
– and the changing-displays,
– but there were so many images,
– and the ceiling of cast-iron and sky,
– so I jumped in.
– and back to ground-floor level-zero,
– Although I can’t say it felt like falling
– where lots of people gathered,
– from one place to another.  
– but I couldn’t find you.  


My head of a horse is in London,
my legs and my hands running through another
city, running like the child bursting out
of her father’s headache,

and I’ve never even liked Athens,
but it was somewhere to put my wings up
in the blue Acropolic air, bathing
in the Heliotic sun, as if the sun stretched-out

to be sky itself, letting my grey-eye draw back
in my sleep, or half-sleep, or daydream, if
you’re willing to believe dreaming’s possible
under a 40-Celsius sky

*Stav Poleg’s poetry is published in Magma, The Rialto, Horizon Review, Nthpositon, and Brand Literary MagazineAthena of the City was recently performed (reading) at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, as part of Words, Words, Words new-writing event. 

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