by Hilda Doolittle

Hilda Doolittle

Helios makes all things right:--
night brands and chokes
as if destruction broke
over furze and stone and crop
of myrtle-shoot and field-wort,
destroyed with flakes of iron,
the bracken-stems,
where tender roots were sown,
blight, chaff and waste
of darkness to choke and drown.

A curious god to find,
yet in the end faithful;
bitter, the Kyprian's feet--
ah flecks of whited clay,
great hero, vaunted lord--
ah petal, dust and wind-fall
on the ground--queen awaiting queen.

Better the weight, they tell,
the helmet's beaten shell,
Athene's riven steel,
caught over the white skull,
Athene sets to heal
the few who merit it.

Yet even then, what help,
should he not turn and note
the height of forehead and the mark of conquest,
draw near and try the helmet;
to left--reset the crown
Athene weighted down,
or break with a light touch
mayhap the steel set to protect;
to slay or heal.

A treacherous god, they say,
yet who would wait to test
justice or worth or right,
when through a fetid night
is wafted faint and nearer--
then straight as point of steel
to one who courts swift death,
scent of Hesperidean orange-spray.

Last updated August 29, 2017