Flying From Byzantium


James Merrill

The priceless metal bird came down
At last. On either hand were harsh 
Foothills and an endless marsh. 
He did not take the bus to town. 

Suns rose and set in crimson dust. 
Mountain lion, watersnake— 
As if the choice were his to make,
Kneeling there on the earth’s crust. 

“Mother, I was vain, headstrong,
Help me, I am coming back.” 
He put his lips along a crack, 
Inhaled the vague, compliant song. 

“That I may be born again
Lead the green fly to my flesh.” 
Far off, a young scribe turned a fresh
Page, hesitated, dipped his pen.