"Self-Portrait as Alcibiades"

"Self-Portrait as Alcibiades"

"Self-Portrait as Alcibiades"

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
Jan. 2 2007 6:11 AM

"Self-Portrait as Alcibiades"

Click here to listen to J.D. McClatchy read this poem.

Draped in a touched-up matron's trailing purple, I turn back to the haunch, the beaker, the guests. They hate me and cannot do without me. Their talk used to be of my pocket wars, Of the ruined fleet and the satrap's water garden. Tonight, it is of the god I mutilated.

She was being carried along the capital's edges
To ward off what entrails had threatened come dawn.
The slander has me slashing through the thick
Midnight mist across the gilded statue,
Her smiling face on the processional litter split
Into the past's pushovers, the future's penitence.

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Why would I, who have no loyalties
But those to my sense of honor and of change,
Try to harm what others are forced to believe in?
The point is to keep what I shall want tomorrow.
If I pull back the drop on which the city is painted,
There is the moon, glistening in its recess.