Home > Poetry > The Argonaut Rose, Fleeing with the Sailors, Leaving the Body of Her Brother Behind
Published: Sun Jul 1 2007
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
The Argonaut Rose, Fleeing with the Sailors, Leaving the Body of Her Brother Behind

She [Circe] longed to hear the voice of the maiden, her kinswoman [Medea], as soon as she saw that she had raised her eyes from the ground. For all those of the race of Helios were plain to discern, since by the far flashing of their eyes they shot in front of them a gleam as of gold.
_       _ —Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica, translated by R. C. Seaton

He never saw, wearing his gold-clad helmet
and bearing under his arm
the stolen chest
now filled with the Fleece
that she
this woman of Moonlight, this sorceress who had made
him royal with her potions
_               _of henbane, and lily
_               _root elixirs that made a dragon sleep, no
he never saw that she was
a Princess
and he only an adventurer. Perhaps bathed in his
wreath of golden decisions,
shimmering as he rowed his ship in the arms
of Apollo’s furled musings,
perhaps he felt manly for taking
her back with him,
for not abandoning her
after she helped him to murder her brother Apsyrtus so
that the Argonauts could
escape, and perhaps he even admired her silver body
under the mantle of dawn, after making love on the ocean that widened her
against her own people.

Or perhaps he was really in love with his own
golden heroic self
or the other men, seated over the Dodonian oak,
who helped him
on this quest. Perhaps she
was too quiet, like dawn itself, her
magic always invisible, like rain
before it pours or fog as it wraps a man
in its frothy sheepskin, thus
so powerful, but not something he could
Her silver melts
into the earth or is outshone in daylight,
overshadowed in the silver-pricked night. She gave him
his right
to radiance,
then stepped aside but
he never saw, never noticed
_               _as she floated in her invisible silver raiment
that she had the eyes
to match his helmet, for she kept her eyes
down, as did modest women, and only Circe cleansing her
from the sacrificial murder of her brother
made her raise them
and understood their full sun-dazed intent.

Diane Wakoski has won awards including the William Carlos Williams Award, a NEA grant, and a Fulbright grant. She has published over sixty books and chapbooks of poetry. (updated 7/2010)

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