‘ I stand alone, as on another star ’ Sisi. 1887.
Sisi your bridge is broken now
Out on the Benitses Road.
And gates that lead to nowhere
rust in your garden of gold.
Your sometime petrified Palace
Was home to a poet of stone.
The architect told you stories;
of oceans, shipwrecks, of Odysseus
(a murderer of maidens).
And this, the Island, his last refuge
before the homeward turn to Ithaca.
I was calling to you, Sisi,
across all the Summers;
a warning in the night.
But you heard only stage whispers
in a darkened theatre.
I had put out the flags as a homecoming,
down there on the edge of the shore,
in the shape of the sign of the Easter Cross.
But you could not de-code it’s semaphore of pain
and turned back to the smeared palette of your life;
your deep cobalt, your amaranthine rose.
You are Ashputtel in reverse, Sisi…
Dreaming of Phaeacia,
the burning of maps
and a life among the ashes.
And running, running,
In your too-tight slipper made of glass.
Your warrior Prince was sick of it, he said.
You. His strayed child.
Outraged, he pointed to your wedding band,
made from the heaviest gold.
But when you looked down, it was the silver of a bullet,
of a dagger. Of mercury finding its own level.
It drained through your fingers like blood.
I know you know about betrayal, Sisi,
you, the accidental bride, the stranger.
An anarchist struck in Geneva; a cold place for a murder.
It was nothing personal he said;
a long way from Sarajevo and any royal head would do.
And your boy; your poor boy, Achilles, half dead,
there in your garden.
Re-made triumphant by the Kaiser’s Gorgon glare,
Right there, slap bang in your terrace of roses.
How far can one myth reach,Sisi,
with it’s ten thousand mile stare?
His war gaze eating up the ragged terrain of Greece,
and scorching the earth from here to there.
Sisi, the bright halls you danced in are empty now,
and tourists trudge your marbled floors.
But still I wait to see your shade,
to hear the tap, tap of your little silk slipper,
the hush of your gown of cinnabar and gold.
Dimly, through a lens I see;
a pale and silent ballroom.
A piano. A tarnished, silvered mirror. A veil of stars.
And in the distance, a ridge of shadow,
dark Cypressa, the bay and,
O! Albania; your melancholic glamour.
Chris O’Leary. Corfu. 2020.