Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Kore Ignores the Deeds of Artemis

I'm supposed to stand impassive
while the arch-eyed Artemis wades
in with shins thick as cedars, stops
the gobs of her horn-eared dogs
with giants' heads. I have averted
my gaze for centuries, as stone sweat
drips from big-men's armipts when
the canines sink into their brains,
and as if by reflex, their index
fingers gouge out eyes. My mouth
is stretched into the most artificial
grin I can muster, my hair done
in braids, my nipples perpetually
raised beneath the muslin-alabaster -
and my arm, knocked off long ago
by some clumsy jobsworth, still
proffers an invisible hare. I do it
by staring without pupils, so I
cannot see the moon. Last night,
I dared to look - and as the giants die,
a bead of blood runs down my inner thigh.
Poem by Giles Watson, 2013. Inspired by a fortuitous juxtaposition in the Cast Gallery at the Ashmolean Museum: a group of Korai (women depicted in the height of late-archaic fashion, with brightly-painted clothes, holding out offerings of small animals) from the Athenian Acropolis, stand opposite an extraordinarily visceral cast from the Great Altar at Pergamon, depicting the battle between the Giants and the Gods.

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