When I was young, I knew Antinous.
Fiercely the eager dowager dreaming,
As a girl, I doted dear upon Him.
PRIEST OF ANTINOUS
Speak again, who witnessed, and speak of Him.
‘Twas short before His fated departure
My sister to His ally made wedlock,
And to a warm night of revels they danced.
I know now He loved me not as I did Him,
Yet then knew only my heart lavished hard.
I see then a blindness to gods’ designs
That now I taste in the spiced air of the world.
Lo, Anaxamenos, my new brother,
Called upon the future Favourite
To bear that very torch anon I’d catch.
Antinous it and a stage accepted,
Cleared his throat, and, by a painful smile, spoke:
Fear not – it shall none of us embarrass,
For this have I writ well contemplated,
And what I’ve wrought by relished thought here
Dedicate to the wives of new husbands.
Long have we this day anticipated –
(We, being they his bold ways long have known) –
And, tho’ planned for it, journeyed and arrived,
Still by this awesome hour at hand amaze.
Recollections abound: vast and glittering
Treasuries of wild, gut-wrenching laughter;
Deep and wildly echoing catacombs
Flushed, on occasion, by gut-wrenching tears.
I’ll not here, with unbridled devotion,
Seek each salient one to illustrate,
For such demands time and less decorum.
Memories are best when alluded to;
Diminished when laboriously named.
‘Tis enough to be said he comes to you
Freighted with rich and cherished histories –
Tales of joy and splendour, trial and shade
That live as much in our own minds as his.
In this entangled net of quantum thought,
Where smiles by shared multiples bloom as one,
How easily we often all assume
Ourselves proprietors of each other’s worlds –
Devoted priests in a public temple
Built for a mighty pantheon of friends.
This day, however, discovers us paused;
Our long anticipation confronted
By a gentle test of religious faith
That understands, at last and ever again,
The call to private and domestic space.
Therefore, as to the wives of new husbands
This humble, happy missive now concludes,
I beg to make but one, beaming request:
Be ever conscious of that special trust
We afford you on this glowing solstice,
And walk him with you into the future
As a vessel of our most reverent love.
Until such time as Time adventure flees,
Take care of him. Take care of him, so please.
How clear to me that blest occasion comes!
How measured words for a bride fresh composed
Could speak to her with gentle affection
Of an aching love sweetly relinquished.
Tell me, Venus – was it Palmetta’s ear
I envied, or the glory of her groom?
The one received His poem and piety,
The other His touch and tender reverence,
Whilst Corda, twice that long night the bridesmaid,
Took but a charred torch, a burning desire,
And whispered missives from a wide empire