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Gathering the Golden Apples of the Hesperides

Kay Cotton


Ancient Epidauros

We are searching for the sacred

groves, the fruits of the gods, fruits

from weather-beaten myths, sweeter

than the familiar truths of home.

The serpentine roads take us down

into the Peloponnissos. Suffering,

worn out by the journey, we check,

recheck directions, pass the dance

on the disco wall, the orange

trees, their skimmed milk limbs

spiralling in our dipped headlights,

turn right onto rough new concrete.

'Take it faster' says Ilias,

as we skid up the narrow track

burning our tyres, encounter

a panorama fit for stars.


        * * *


Approaching the site of the ancient thetre

we see the gates are  chained. 'KEEP OUT'.

A rambler with a German accent says

'Hercules has been here.

He has killed giants, monsters,

dogs with dragons' heads on their tails.

All are gone. I am surrounded

by gods, heroes and nymphs.'

He smiles, walks on, and the white horse stands

where he stood before, with his neck

roped into a ring by the door

and there is no grass. Nothing matters

but that we breathe our fill:

take photographs, pick up potsherds,

stones, olive wood, anything

to make memory, claim connection.

Moments stop, start, pass.

High above us, scavenging birds

of prey circle in uplift

of our incontinent desires,

pick great holes in our better selves.

We think only of the apples, the golden apples.


        * * *


There is a smell of sage.

A man passes us by, who gestures silently.

He spreads his arms, encompasses this space

between the mountains and the sea,

shrugs, rubs his thumb across his fingers,

indicates that only the power of money

can prgress the restoration. Moving on,

he leads us to the lost chapel, to see the icons.

Coming home across the mountains that night,

we sing of valour, constancy, following the master,

intent to look through the scaffolding, beyond

any selfish dread of a tarmac road bringing plebeians

here in their uncivilised thousands.


'Let instability do its work'



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