Photo Credit: Athens National Museum Thera Fresco

The Line At Thermopalae

Some men are lonely by design;
the architecture of their dreams
poured concrete, molded into monoliths
(sans doors, sans windows)
blood and ashes ground into cement
foundations.  Stoic.  Unshakable.
Each piece of scaffolding
accounted for and each support
in place.  There is

a line not much unlike
the faded paint of freeway surfaces;
the ones where yellow disappears
a little more each day, till all
that's left is asphalt black,
an unintentioned anarchy
where you find your way
by instinct, sense of touch;
jarrings real and imagined.

It's the same line drawn in playground deserts.
The ones we keep ourselves behind.  Unflinching
at the schoolyard taunts, some men
transform their hands to hammers,
disallow distractions like a snowfall touch
at even dimmest light; some men
see only blue-prints where
the horizon folds itself against
the sunset.

They are unaware their every touch
is impact.
They are unaware that this
is no caress.
Some men have never known the difference.

Whisper rumours of our small defeats
into the Spartans' ears; the songs
of black-bound girls smoking Lucky Strikes
outside convenience stores.
Lips bitter pouts; eyes suburban numb,
having seen too little;
having seen enough.

I bemoan clear tears so commonplace
they flow like streams to unseen oceans,
these hands impotent, these swords dull
and useless here, palms damp
and trembling around the hilt.

I watch these girls, lost in eyes
that wait for nothing, eyes for which
the present, past & future
conjugate the same; and I want
to reach for them, but my hands are hammers
and I cannot bear to see them shattered,
so I scream instead, an inward yell
that Athens is a cinderblock, that the Spartans
can throw away their swords and shields
and never mind the distant shores,
we did it to ourselves.

There is a line,
the one that children throw
sharp sand across.
Stinging eyes, filling mouths.

There is a line drawn daily
ringing my perimeter;
I have always sensed the need
to guard the ones around me;

I would wrap my arms around
frail girls with ironwrought eyes,
the ones whose strength was furnaced steel,
tempered edges belaying wind worn arms;

I pressed them close against my skin,
and thought that I'd protect them,
but they were guarding me and this
was my defeat, some men
are lonely inadvertently,
with the challenge of sky tattooed across
their souls, their necks, their words;

their yesterdays reduced to fuel,
their firefly hearts are drawn
to just the curious hands, their now,
their wayward moments.
Their Aquarian souls bearing burdens
of a construct, stumbling towards sentience,
eyes glancing outward, focusing
on 30 year old glances trapped
in 15 year old eyes.
daring you to give a damn.
(and you give a damn.)

Go tell the Spartans that their day is finished;
cast away their swords and shields and
batter them to ploughshares if they must,
but tell them of the flames invoked
from homespun bonfires.
Tell them that there's nothing left here
to defend.

Watch them turn, search
briefly in your eyes,
then turn again
to face the sea,

to hold the line.

Victor D. Infante

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