Tribute by Jenny Lewis

They made shields from themselves, a phalanx of bony mantles
we crushed as we stepped ashore: clams, cockles, whelks — oysters
that changed from male to female over a hundred tides.

Then those women with their blue-veined forearms flung back
against the pebbles, not understanding us — their men off fighting
somewhere behind the hills, lost in perpetual drizzle and cloud.

All we wanted was comfort, but they showed us no compliance,
instead, they shut their ears to the foreign sounds we made,
white ears more delicate than shells, with tiny, labyrinthine cochleas.

They were less impressive than African bounty — the conch
and cowrie we used as currency, displays of wealth to string
round the necks of our black-haired Pompeiian women.

We took them anyway, translucent as the sunlight our ships turned
to plough through: scant booty, but it was enough for Caligula.

From: https://thepunchmagazine.com/the-byword/poetry/extracts-from-gilgamesh-retold-and-other-poems

Date: 2017

By: Jenny Lewis (1944- )

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