Circe (1860), by Charles Gumery (1827–1871)

An old man sails away again in search
of dreams, of youth, sailing alone
into the sunset and his journey’s end.

Would it not have been far better
if the wingèd messenger had never interfered,
had left him with the others to his fate?

We grow up fit and fat these days, grow up
and face the decades-long-drawn-out humane death,
long-drawn-out pig denying the obvious.

Acorns and mast or swill or a five-star menu –
for the ready-to-go the butcher’s knife must be
easier than cancer or senility.


The sacramental feast, symbolic
touch of the wand, and – panta rheï
off to the sties.

Who then is this philosopher
denying re-volution,
this blasphemer?

Let him grow old apart,
never more than half wild,
a cross between a monkey and a battery hen.

Let him grow old and remain for ever
half carrion, half child,
the plaything of flies.


God offers acorns and mast
or, if impressed,
roast meat and wine
for us to gorge ourselves on but
She does not offer immortality.

Unlike Calypso, but then
Calypso was lonely,
lonely and in need.
God is not lonely, does not need
man that She should offer immortality.

And yet, if an artist,
a prophet – a poet –
came running to God, chasing a dream,
and seeing, adored Her
without lust or greed (or even with),
would She not see
in such a life, such a death,
something more than mere animal mortality?


Others we knew
turned out to be rats
or rabbits or dogs
or sheep or cats.

After the bread
and wine and figs
no word was spoken:
we were pigs.


When we got to the garden she took off her blouse
and letting the moonlight play upon her breasts
laughed and said I really am Kirke:
take off your clothes and get down on all fours.
Laughing too I stripped and dropped down
at her feet and followed as she crossed the grass.
In here, she said. It was a cage
and laughing still, enjoying the variation,
I crawled in. And have been here ever since.

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