Pontus Euxinus

Pontus Euxinus :
An ancient name for an ancient sea.

I

Back, back go the Black Sea‘s peoples.

You have carried me back beyond the Euxine Sea,
In truth beyond Pontus Euxinus,
To where my fathers rose and lived and rested
On that warm worn shore.

Odessa!
There again she sits beside the Czars’ summer sea.

Odessa,
Who are you, so strange and yet familiar?

And that I am here now,
And that we were there again attempting a new beginning—
Was that planned or a whim divine?

For all the summer’s suns and sums of times,
I see no sense or order,
Nor a way back nor forward,
Only a maze of Ages.

They are for You, O Lord,
A simple light delight,
A dream of little gods who reel and frolic,
Destined to dance across your brow,
Each in their own time and space,
Each to find their place,
Beyond our thin structures of thought and sight.

Odessa,
There again!

O the men,
The Viking eyes that south down the northern rivers rowed
To Pontus Euxinus.

I see their portages between the rivelets,
The sweat and blood and fear they shed
As they roved ever southward
To stand upon that warm and waiting shore,
That final southern beach,
And then reach out to they knew not where.

O the remnant of the Greeks, the Romans and the Jews,
And then the Slavs who met them.
Let the bards tell their stories that we might remember!

Back, back go the Black Sea’s peoples.

Let them sing of how they met
And how they bled each other.

How they all pressed upon each other’s flesh,
First with swords and then in marriage,
Bleeding and breeding,
In love and passions, cruel and kind.

On they tread.
On they wed, line into line,
To stamp out ever newer lineages.

Their ships they built of forests cut.
Who knew, who knows, how many little worlds were set afloat,
To seek, to drift—
Or for how long
They would wind round and round
In ever untightening circles the Pontus Euxinus?

Or the day they passed the Bosporus and island skipped and hopped
To kiss all the encircling shores of the Mar Imperium,
And then to pause and stay at the western gates?

But not Hercules nor his fearful pillars,
No foe or wind could break their westward gait,
Nor slow their outward bore.

How you enlarge our world and yet keep it small,
Returning to where beginnings begin.

II

My fathers mounted their sea’s stead,
And in strong hands held tight the reins,
Lashed their billowed sails,
Rode the broad sea’s back ever westward,
And brought us here
In the bark of my fathers’ loins,
Here to this new shore.

Chicago, Lake Michigan,
August 21,1965.
Again a son of Odessa’s sons
Stood on the shores of another sea.

With Alaska behind me
And the salmon runs over,
I stopped by my grandfather’s home,
In hope of returning to the beginning.

I asked, “Do you remember Odessa”?

“It was so long ago.
I remember I was 12,
And our shtetl,
And a cart,
And there was a ride upon an iron horse, a train,
And then a sail-less ship of steel,
And weeks and weeks at sea.

And then a city,
Tall as the clouds,
Its windows lit with stars.

I remember a woman,
Green like copper-gold,
Standing on the sea.

I loved her
And love her to this day.

I remember Ellis Island
And then Chicago—
All so long ago.”

“And Russia”, I replied?

‘No, nothing more.
Though not invited,
She came with us—a stowaway,
And mixed her mists and myths
In the dews of our New World’s day.

And we were working free,
Sleeping, eating, dreaming, loving, singing—
Then suddenly,
Out your father and his kind came.
Americans, I suppose,
Like me,
Only more like you than me.”

Elliott Tepper 9-16-2000
Returning to New York from Russia and the Ukraine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *