Stephen Robertson

Slanting Lines


Dancing Satyr, bronze, 4th century BCE, recovered in a fisherman’s net off the coast of Sicily, 1998.  The Royal Academy, October 2012

A quarter of a mile or more

straight up

the Mediterranean waves roll on.

How many years, decades, centuries

have I lain upon this sandy seafloor?

I cannot now recall.

Up there are storms and calms,

earthquake-waves and volcanic dust,

soft breezes and winter gales.

Was I shipwrecked?  Or cast overboard to avert shipwreck?

I cannot now recall.

Generations and generations

of fishermen and trading sailors

ply back and forth overhead.  Was I carried for trade?

Or in payment of taxes?  Or was I a trophy of war?

I cannot now recall.

On the lands bordering the Mediterranean,

empires rise and fall.  Battles are fought,

wars are lost and won.  Did they rage around me

where I stood for all men to see?

I cannot now recall.

Cities flourish and decay.  In forgotten corners,

artists create and sometimes destroy.  Did I really

spring from the hands of the great Praxiteles?

I cannot now recall.

No matter!  Now, in a stranger place, a colder clime,

with no arms, one leg, no tail, but raised high,

and head thrown back, I can dance.