Implements from the “Tomb of the Poet”

By A. E. Stallings b. 1968

Piraeus Archeological Museum

On the journey to the mundane afterlife,
You travel equipped to carry on your trade:
A bronze, small-toothed saw to make repairs,
The stylus and the ink pot and the scraper,
Wax tablets bound into a little book.

Here is the tortoise shell for the cithara,
Bored through with holes for strings, natural sound box.
Here is the harp's wood triangle, all empty—
The sheep-gut having long since decomposed
Into a pure Pythagorean music.

The beeswax, frangible with centuries,
Has puzzled all your lyrics into silence.
I think you were a poet of perfection
Who fled still weighing one word with another,
Since wax forgives and warms beneath revision.

Source: Poetry (February 2001).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

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February 2001
 A. E. Stallings


A. E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published three books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999), which won the Richard Wilbur Award; Hapax (2000); and Olives (2012). Her new verse translation of Lucretius (in rhyming fourteeners!), The Nature of Things, is published by Penguin Classics. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and . . .

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