Apparatus of Devotional Forms
† The City (C.P. Cavafy, 1894, 1910, as translated by D. Mendelsohn)
You said: “I’ll go to some other land, I’ll go to some other sea.
What are your boundaries?
There’s bound to be another city that’s better by far.
Where is your lover? Your ensomátosi/
My every effort has been ill-fated from the start;
embodiment, you are metres from the source
my heart — like something dead — lies buried away;
Your house/my house. Rue Lepsius, no –
How long will my mind endure this slow decay?
the junky alleys, warehouses, seafront;
Wherever I look, wherever I cast my eyes,
impractical to separate the water, time
I see all round me the black rubble of my life
the passage from the dealers to the first
where I’ve spent so many ruined and wasted years”.
floor above the brothel
You’ll find no new places, you won’t find other shores.
Dear Gene, Let’s suppose we got to Alexandria†. We’d have visited Rue Lepsius for Cavafy, The
Cecil Hotel for Durrell, Salah Salem for Forster gone that year. You’d have said: we need to get
away from Cairo, Karori, crouch instead under a table at The Trianon, and pick crumbs off each
other’s lapels. And agreeing, I’d have fallen asleep on the bus while you’d have watched the
camels form waves and let my arm stick to your arm. Dog days. Sirius rising. Gas fumes in through
Transported then? Trash
The city will follow you. The streets in which you pace
trace sex translated. The trails are
will be the same, you’ll haunt the same familiar places,
slow without electricty
and inside those same houses you’ll grow old.
without a stop-watch to pause the breathing
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t bother to hope
Proskynētés: say what you are here for
for a ship, a route, to take you somewhere else; they don’t exist.
Who is your object? Who are you nearing?
Just as you’ve destroyed your life, here in this
There are buoys off the Kayetbai,
small corner, so you’ve wasted it through all the world.
the pier from which we jump.
the windows binding to sweat and dehydration. And sand. I’m not sure I’d have said anything
about Heraclitus’ view that souls are mixtures of fire and water, or mentioned the sun searing
a red hole through the roof. But I might have whispered, There came to Alexandria a foreigner
who asked to be given work in the guardhouse below the tower; and for years no one
entertained any suspicion of him until one day he stole the mirror and threw it into the sea. Or,
† The Pharos of Alexandria (Maarten van Heemskerck, 1570, Engraving)
or heliograph or flare closing the ascent outcome of arcs
coiling outwards from the coast as in mole (eel te tuna ruahine)
or mouth morphing into body dissolving into fervent forms:
Ptolemy standing on his unreal coast Sostratus preparing to strike
his name into stone layers: προς τους θεούς που προστατεύουν τους ναυτιλλομένους
A private dedication but to whom? To Endurance? To the lines
away from or towards the monuments? The important thing is
to resist the bonfire to keep the letters safe (to the gods for the seafaring ones)
I Consecrate I conjugate: I am You are my ardor seventh wonder
chronometer floodlight tangent
I’m going to walk to the lighthouse† Gene, and dive in. But what really happened is that Anthony
and I crossed Misr Station, and walked down Moharrem Bey, and that not far from Charm El Sheik
a watch dealer was synchronising clocks. Five minutes forward, one hour back. Each clock had a
face that opened, and Arabic numbers like bird tracks so slight and unpredictable, that Anthony
bought two. Very Good Time, a seller said, New Time; and he held up a newspaper advertisement
promising ‘A touch of the classical, a dash of the futuristic’. And then, later that night, after dinner
on the roof at The Cecil, a Durrell professor in a light linen suit told us we’d have missed the bus
back – but that we could return with him, in his car, and his undercover policeman. And, that he had
fallen in love with Anthony. (‘Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence
around us?’) And so we sped through the desert dead for the night, headlights dipped and dusty,
time misread, un-located, the waves either side of us indefinite.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vana Manasiadis is a Wellington born poet who has returned after eight years marooned on Crete. She has published one collection of poetry, Ithaca Island Bay Leaves, and her writing has appeared in Sweet Mammalian, Sport, Turbine, Poetry NZ, and Essential New Zealand Poems.