histories: onesilos; in the well

Jan Wagner

Translated from German by David Keplinger

histories: onesilos

The people of Amathus cut the head from Onesilos’ dead body, for he had besieged the city; they took the head with them to Amathus and hung it high above the gates. Later a swarm of bees settled in the hollow skull, filling it with honeycombs.
     —Herodotus, Histories

up there: the skull at the city gate
that with the first light starts to hum
still holds to that slightly agape
expression, where the face had been.

something labors behind it: the del-
icate swarm-mechanics in the cranium,
the bees a set of golden cog wheels
that intertwine. geraniums

and tulips, wild poppies, gladiolas—
piecemeal all things return in their ways
to the blind hive, until the bee-eyes
in their sockets commence to roll.

for the boys it makes no difference
what name they called him once,
beggar or king, when they scale the
sun-warmed bricks, and the honey,

his invention, sticks to their fingers.
the bee-dance is an epitaph.
he almost had a kingdom while alive.
now, inside his head: this empire.

in the well

six, seven meters free fall
and i was farther away
than ever before, a cosmonaut
in his space capsule of fieldstone,
observing from the distance
the precious, round blue.

i was the child
in the well. only the mosses
climbed on the braided
rope of themselves upwards,
and ivy clambered over ivy-shoulders
into the free, escaping.

now and then the white bolt
of a bird, now and then
the white bird bolt. i ate
what was slower than me. the moon
slid over the opening,
a researcher-eye above the microscope.

just as i began to grasp
the words bug, and stone
as bug, and stone,
there interceded noise, a hastening, shouts,
and in front of me appeared a rope.

i returned into the tolling of the bells,
back to bread-smell and bus-schedules,
the shadow under trees,
conversations about weather, returned
back to baptisms and tragedies,
the headlines, one of which
i was.

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