‘Twas on a dim and narrow street less trafficked
By deliberate Claudiopolis
That a Wineseller’s vessel-tooth’d counter
Bit me – tho’ not by ruby elixir!
No, for ‘twas mine eyes that evening eaten:
Consumed by famished, wondrous awe at the
Splendor of that Mosaic before them ;
An inlay of Long Now and Loving Craft,
By reverent, shard-bloodied fingers mortar’d:
‘Pon a shimmering field of ebony
Stood guard the opalescent radiance
Of stiffly proud, double-shafted phalli
Eagling from their shared and manful testes.
I was but a boy then, of eight autumns:
Joyous, cruel, lusty and doting.
There was with me that evening a playmate:
A fellow five moons my junior and warm –
Cool with chilled reason yet burning after life.
Antinous (and glorious!) was his name,
And he halted with me at the storefront.
Lo! An ambush from the shady doorway
Thrust upon us the fat Wineseller, bellowing:
“What orchids here do wander their gangly legs?”
Wary, we leapt us back in unison.
“Boys!” he boomed. “Boys from their keepers unhitched!
Gods! Be I by such beauty raped or woo’d?
Well then? What’s to drink? A sandalful?
Mind, for myself, ‘tis but a gulp of grape-juice,
Whilst men of mere mortal constitution
Obtain oft pleasure from it – or malice.
Tell me, lads: What shall you taste in it tonight?”
“Your pardon, Sir,” I said, “‘Twas the
Stonework that arrested and seduced us.”
The Wineseller gazed on us each a time.
The smile from his jowly lips curled slowly
Up to creep across his slippery cheeks
As olive’d oil round a child’s belly drips.
“Dearest friends,” he purred. “So good you saw
And good again to stop and say you’ve seen.
Doth know wherefore’t glistens upon the eye?”
“A special crystal,” spake Antinous,
“Content in its winking self-assurance
As a perfect medium for the gods.”
“Correct! A thousand cuts of coloured glass, boys,
From the self-same fires of Hephaestus blown;
By hammer and hardie chipped and chisled
‘Neath the patience of a pious craftsman!”
“But what’s the icon?” asked I. “Why doubled?”
“A lovely question, that,” quoth the keeper.
“How shall I answer to kiss thy confidence?
For too loose, you’ll think me a monstrous man,
Whilst a cryptic tongue shall but lick thy lips
And dry fast away, not again to be
Tasted ‘til thy final moments of life.
Behold, boys! The gods’ most eternal wisdom
To this simple double phallus distilled:
Tellingly, we hungrily were!
throbs the other option to be.”
He giggled then, and tittered yet again.
For we, like a rabid crowd at the games
Fallen by the master of revels hushed,
Were so by him smitten that whatever
Drama we sought from the field would be found,
Regardless of what sport indeed transpired.