‘Her Sister’s Words Incite the Buried Flames’
After Virgil’s Aeneid Book IV, ll. 54-89
Her sister’s words incite the buried flames
of love, giving her hope, freeing her from shame.
Together they approach the temples of each god,
praying in turn for divine approval, offering
the choicest lambs for slaughter at the altars of Ceres,
Phoebus Apollo, and Lyaeus – and to Juno above all,
protectress of marriage bonds.
Dido, herself handsome,
pours seasoned wine out of a handsome golden cup
between the horns of a white heifer. Before the blood-
stained altars, in the sight of the gods, she paces,
taking up the day’s offerings, gazing into the still-
beating chest of cattle, consulting their entrails.
Oh! not even poets know what promised words
might aid or mitigate the violent passion of a lover.
Entirely consumed, she says nothing of the wound
beneath her breast.
Dido wanders through her city,
wild like a wide-eyed doe struck by the steel-
tipped arrow of a passing hunter; he leaves her
running from glen to shadowed grove, the arrow fixed
into her bloody flank.
She leads Aeneas through the city,
showing him her new Sidon, under construction.
She tries to speak, but can’t. She craves to see day
turn itself to night, to hold another feast and hear
Aeneas recount, not for the second time, the siege
on Ilium, hanging once more onto his every word.
When everyone has left, when the moon has passed
through night and the stars urge sleep, she falls
crying onto the couch where Aeneas once sat.
She hears him when he’s not there; she holds Ascanius,
the image of his father, tight on her lap, a trick
to satisfy this horrible desire.
All work stops.
Towers stand half-built; boys no longer practice
war games; men no longer labour in the harbour
or along the city walls to make them impenetrable;
cranes stand still, their heavy loads suspended in the air.
Poetry Ireland Review Issue 119:
Poetry Ireland Review Issue 119 includes new poems by 48 poets including Frank Ormsby, John Kinsella, Rachel Coventry, Aifric Mac Aodha, Gerald Dawe, Alice Miller and Claire Potter. Also included are translations by Richard Begbie and Kirsten Lodge, an essay on Bishop, Lowell, Heaney and Grennan by David McLoghlin, and reviews of Paul Muldoon, Paul Durcan, Sarah Clancy, Medbh McGuckian, Kate Tempest, George the Poet, and many more. The issue also features photography by Hugh O'Conor, Dominic Turner, Sheila McSweeney, Fergus Bourke and John Minihan.