I do not know more than the Sea tells me,
told me long ago, or I overheard Her
telling distant roar upon the sands,
waves of meaning in the cradle of whose
sounding and resounding power I
Manchild, She sang
—or was it a storm uplifting the night
into a moving wall in which
I was carried as if a mothering nest had
been made in dread?
the wave of a life darker than my
life before me sped, and I,
larger than I was, grown dark as
the shoreless depth,
arose from myself, shaking the last
light of the sun
Manchild, She said,
Come back to the shores of what you are.
Come back to the crumbling shores.
The mothering tides in which your
Life first formd in the brooding
light have quencht the bloody
Splendors of the sun
and, under the triumphant processions
of the moon, lay down
thunder upon thunder of an old
longing, the beat
of whose repeated spell
my mother, has promised me
the mirage of a boat, a vehicle
of water within the water,
and my soul would return from
the trials of its human state,
from the long siege, from the
struggling companions upon the plain,
from the burning towers and deeds
of honor and dishonor,
the deeper unsatisfied war beneath
and behind the declared war,
and the rubble of beautiful, patiently
workt moonstones, agates, jades, obsidians,
turnd and returnd in the wash of
the tides, the gleaming waste,
the pathetic wonder,
words turnd in the phrases of song
before our song…or are they
beautiful, patiently workt remembrances of those
long gone from me,
returned anew, ghostly in the light
of the moon, old faces?
For Thetis, my mother, has promised
me a boat,
a lover, an up-lifter of my spirit
into the rage of my first element
rising, a princedom
in the unreal, a share in Death
Time, time. It’s time.
The business of Troy has long been done.
Achilles in lreuke has come home.
And soon you too will be alone.
—December 10, 1968
“Achilles’ Song” By Robert Duncan, from Ground Work: Before the War, copyright © 1984 by Robert Duncan. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.