(Sunken Palace Cistern, Istanbul)
The waters are still, not still.
They ripple with sleek gray fish
cruising in silent curves
among the shadows, between
shafts snapped to attention:
Justinian legions still.
Cool air moves too. High overhead
in artificial light, arched
brick-faced ceiling vaults
echo tales told. It’s said
six thousand slaves died hauling
here; that huge Medusa blocks
were mortised sideways
far beneath the flood
to show which faith prevailed.
That rowers on the torch-lit lake
before fixed walkways were installed
would feel strange tugs upon their sleeves.
A waterworks cathedral
two millennia old: baleful
and beautiful and more than
Byzantine, that seeps with sound.
Sidling on paths, we sense
but cannot see the heavy
weight of majesty – its cyclone
force of absolute command —
or calculate what shafts of ours
might stand so long. Such ends
are yet to be. The earth’s deep
currents move indifferently.