Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Feast of Telemachus

Death is the mother of beauty. I stare in my mind's eye at my father's beautiful corpse. His body, glazed in salt, lies in humble majesty upon the slab. I can barely bring myself to tear away from this dream.
They are making me a feast. Cook says she will do figs baked with pomegranate to appease the appetites of my mother's suitors. For me she will do a banquet of wild birds. Perhaps not starlings, but thrushes stuffed with lavender and attar of roses. Or, if they can be had, the tongues of skylarks braised in honeyed wine. Such fragrant feasts recalled in the mouth like a clinging veil of abstracted light.
We live in a world where beauty runs in rivers green as weed, as swift and chill as water off the mountain. I look at my mother and wonder how long hers can be preserved. Her hands bleed with knotting the strands of silk she is using to weave the cloth of fidelity. I have seen what she does in the dark secret of the night, but I cannot imagine to what good I can put this knowledge.
If the old man dies, the undreamt of treasure is mine. This palace, with its brocades and marbles, and its vistas of the sea from every window would legitimately become mine own. So long as she does not marry one of the pretenders. So I drink with them, and watch them out of the side of my face, while the chained dogs bark and the night's chill steals upon us. And their company is livelier than hers, even if they do plan to usurp what's mine.
My mothers pious longing for Ulysses outshadows everything else. She can talk of no-one but him. Even her memories, fractured by the events of the day, are elaborated to elevate him above the salt tide. Ulysses, my father. A colossus in our fabrications of him. And Penelope the virtuous. No-one could say my parentage was not illustrious.
Way below, in the stone kitchen, the fabulous feast bursts the barriers of longing, and hunger, or something close to it, moves me.

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