From The Journal of Anna Komnen (C. AD 1150)
Let’s imagine, at sunset, the tents are pitched on the peak
of the horizon, under the watchman’s watchful eye. He
signals his commander who signals his commander
and the table is set,
the meal laid out, and the envoys
arrive with their terms and conditions. The gods, as the poet
wrote, do not combat necessity. The wine is good and strong,
the lamb tender, but I’m impatient, celebrating the details.
The lords and the ladies of Antioch, many of them were
friends. We were mutually acquainted with literature,
the language, rhetoric, the works of Aristotle,
the dialogues of Plato.
I live in an apartment,
alone, surrounded by codices, reading and studying
the statements of men who swore their words were true.
I hope they are, but I know better what they cannot hold.
Swimming close to me, my daughter, Eirene, two of us
in sight of the shore. We shouldn’t be here, or wish
we weren’t, the water cold, the waves rising,
Eirene and I wading through
a lifetime of waves
in the narrowest rivers. And because I never learned
to escape, because the Cumans are always crossing the Ister,
I taught her to welcome them, the unseen, overwhelming waves.
Canadian poet EVAN JONES has lived in Manchester since 2005. His third collection, Later Emperors, is published by Carcanet.