After ‘Study for Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus’ – Cy Twombly, 1962, ballpoint pen
This is not a love poem.
Because grief is flood & drought assailing conjointly,
because Achilles is consumed by a firestorm
of desire & rage & longing, because love’s relics
cannot smile back at him nor make a feral nest
of the bedclothes, because they cannot howl out in lust
nor sing him to sleep, cannot assuage his headache, because they cannot delicately & with a long tongue
suck the honeydew from his thigh, because the eyebright & the hairstreak are just names, because Patroclus
is just a name, because the hare & the nightingale,
the slow-worm & turtle dove, because they insist
on getting themselves killed, because these flowers of love-
sickness, this ghost of something like a rose, are all that’s left,
because he scribbles the name again, crosses it out, again,
because the thread or stalk or stem or cord or feeler of it
is as red as life, because it is a thing of love & blood,
because he is blown, deracinated & visceral, towards it
in every fibre of his being, because he is trying to record how
the news smote him, what the ash in his hair smelt of.
Because he needs witnesses. Because he bleeds. Wants to.
Because this is not a love poem, only a study for one.