Poem introduction

... and it says at the top: Iam seges est ubi Troia fuit: "Now there is corn where Troy once was".

Visiting Troy

Iam seges est ubi Troia fuit
That’s her.  There, walking the wall: looking at nothing.
There, with the low-cut dress, the sallow ankle,
The jangling foreign armlets.  You can tell
When she is passing by the tightening lips,
The sibilants, the disapproving elbows
Of women, the embarrassed lust of men.
Outlined in front of ruins: ragged stones:
She stands, she strolls.  Behind her (can you see?)
The unseducible future: flames in the hair
Of scattering women.  Soldiers kicking the smoke.
Holes in the masonry, fragments of languages.
Tourists in sandals, queuing, shuffling, listening,
Of not quite listening.  Imagine, say the guides.
Homer never describes the lips or breasts,
The colours of her beauty: old men staring
And young men lusting to see her on the walls.
Among the rubble, patient women stand
In low-cut foreign dresses, and imagine
Dutifully how the sixth or seventh Troy
Collapsed in dust; picture enormous stones
Dislodged by fire; men hiding from the heat
Among the smoke and swords; the waiting ships.
Where once corn grew upon the site of Troy
Metallic noises blend: the noise of payment
Clinks, and becomes the ringing noise of war.
Imagine, say the guides.

from Rembrandt's Mirror (Secker & Warburg, 1987), copyright © Laurence Lerner 1987; private recording made at his home in Lewes, Sussex on his 90th birthday, 12 December 2015, copyright © the Estate of Laurence Lerner 2015, used by permission of the author's Estate.

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