ENEHEDUANNA BY DAVID SAHNER

John called me to look at three deer grazing in the pasture and they were grey . . . he said at this time of year they are always that color, because they haven’t yet lost their winter hair.
– The last diary entry of Edna St. Vincent Millay

I.

Edna asks if the Strand is still open.
Yes, get off at 14th street.
No matter how grey the day.

Climb through the shop window.
Much has been written since you left
about love, etc.
But no one understands
how you could exult in the skin
of men and women
and say that love is not all.
Just a cactus whose milk
we imbibe in a desert.

Does the moon laugh at us nightly
with its pocked face?
We are empty if so
despite the spectral claims
of our own ghosts.

She bristles.
A murderer of pain is all that love is
to anyone who knows
the cold lines of its geometry.

Later, at the Strand
she says:
You look so smart.
Find the aisle
marked “Literary Criticism”
and amuse yourself.

No, I’m happy with archeology.
Millay says read my fucking poetry:
‘So subtly
is the fume of life designed,
to clarify the pulse
and cloud the mind.’

I say Virgil wrote lamely
of what you have accomplished
although you’re the leather
of your books has been chewed by rats.

II.

A poet strops her blade.

Twelve city-states
and as many deities.
A basic system of writing,
and a rigid code of law.

But her cuneiform alphabet
evades all codes of law
speaking only to those
who ply their pain.

Priestess and poet of Mesopotamia
whose hymns are sealed in wax cylinders:
Do our haughty perspectives
seem to you,
well,

unnecessary?

Do you hear me, Eneheduanna?
The Book of Love has been stolen
from the Strand
but someone must find it.

I thought it might be you.

 

David Sahner is a poet and scientist whose verse has appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Bitter Oleander, Connecticut Review, Catamaran, The Sandy River Review, Blue Unicorn, Blackbox Manifold, Mudlark, The Raven’s Perch, Tears in the Fence, Agenda, and elsewhere. A book-length collection, Hum, was published in 2022.