Thursday, July 2, 2009

Who Do You Love ?

Bo Didley said that! I must give credit where credit is due. Bo wrote and recorded Who Do You Love in 1956, and it is one of the great rock and roll songs in the soundtrack of my childhood and adolescence.

Do you want to see some 50s or 60s era preteens throwing themselves around in an ecstatic frenzy akin to a religious paroxysm? Just throw Who Do You Love on the turntable, and stand back!

In other news: On her blog, Sourwood Mountain, my sister Joanne posted this request: If you love somebody, or some pet, who most likely never existed, I invite you to post it on your blog, and to tell why you love him or her. Joanne's "somebody" was Lancelot.

I think quite possibly that Lancelot really did exist, in one form or another. And the first person who popped into my mind as someone I have loved who was almost fictitious, and definitely mythical, is Alexander the Great. No doubt about it.

I fell in love with Alexander the Great in about 1976 when I read the novels The Persian Boy and Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault. Renault seemed to capture the personality and spirit of her subject in a way that actually made him seem totally real and believable. I was captivated and intrigued by some of the amazing and romantic facts or legends or myths regarding Alexander.

1. His mother claimed that the king, Philip, was not Alexander's father, but that a god impregnated her. Sounds unlikely, but aspects of Alexander's character, life and death seem very much super-human.

2. After conquering an enemy force, Alexander gave full citizenship and freedom to all those who would swear allegiance to him.

3. After each battle, Alexander kissed each soldier in his army, and this honor was so treasured that anyone who didn't receive a kiss was thrown into inconsolable grief and despair.

4. Alexander's love for his best friend, Hephaistion, was so intense that when Hephaistion died, Alexander built an enormous and beautiful tower as the funeral pyre, placed the body on the summit of the elaborate structure, and burned the whole thing down.

One famous event after the battle of Issus (autumn 333) gives us an idea about Alexander's and Hephaistion's friendship, when Alexander had captured Darius's throne tent and all the royal contents, including Darius's mother, Sisygambis; his wife, Stateira; and his harem.
When Alexander and Hephaistion went to meet Sisygambis, she prostrated herself at the feet of the most kingly figure. She chose by mistake the taller Hephaistion! Alexander is said to have responded rather pleasantly: "Don't worry mother, he is Alexander too."

5. And, Alexander loved his wondrous horse, Bucephalus, so much, he had a giant statue of the horse sculpted, and made the horse a general in the army!

So, while in the throes of this amorous affliction, I wrote an amorphous poem about Alexander. The dictionary tells us that amorphous means without definite shape, and I think that describes my poem, which is more emotion than form.

Alexander of Macedonia
You have left us;
by night we hunger for your voice
still, at this great distance, we hunger
and thirst for the taste of you.
Memories and haunted dreams
like fires, like jewels,
burn across the dark until
your voice awakes the seamless night.
Then I see your face, that aching
long-remembered beauty, loved by others long ago
and now so close to me
I feel your breath against my skin.
You come and go, appear then fade.
Please stay, please stay longer here
in this time and place, so far, so far
from that world you knew before; those days
of gold and fire and battles fought
for kings and kingdoms and promises
never lost, and worlds invented in your eyes,
worlds invented, conquered, then redeemed
by you and your beautiful eyes.
You rode across the earth, called it your own,
then gave yourself, body and soul, to those you conquered,
those you possessed and who would possess you;
soldiers and slaves who cried for your kiss.
Lovers and warriors whose every waking thought
was of you, whose destiny was in your hands
and whose blood fueled your fires; those are the ones
who touched you and were changed forever by your touch.
Those are the ones I envy, the ones who knew you, the ones
you built towers for, towers of flame and honor
and desire and sound. The sound of sacred flame
echoes from your past, a holy noise around you.
Still, I hunger and thirst for you,
and I watch for you in vacant dreams.
Silence drifts like smoke across the starless night
waiting to be filled by the sound of your voice
and the touch of your breath.
At dawn, the fires still burn, and you will go again
to find that distant world you knew.
That other world awaits you still.
Alexander, Alexander,
take me with you.
© Ramey Channell 2001


Joanne Ramey Cage said...

Great post! That had of Alexander looks like our cousin Jimmy Walker when he was young.

Joanne Ramey Cage said...

I meant the HEAD of Alexander.

Joanne Ramey Cage said...

Your poem is very moving.