Cowering before Achilles and his bronze-breasted Greeks,
Troy’s sacred towers are not so sacred now,
ground down to the mud of Hissarlik.
The walls of Byzantium stand more or less intact,
decorous yellow masonry decorated
with courses of red brick, like the veins of Vesalius.
Four stooping towers are inherited by a fifth
with a gaudy appendix scar, a sixth toppled on itself,
another with a brooding vaginal interior
where a peasant farmer scratches out dusty crops
on the plain between inner and outer wall.
The towers juddered down the withered valley
of the Lycus, now a hot boulevard where Urban’s cannon
reduced the walls to dust, down, down to the Golden Horn,
passing the insignificant sally port, the Keroporta,
shyly concealed by a tower, forgotten and left open.
The Turks were within.
The emperor stood glittering with three companions,
defending an inner gate — his cousin Theophilus,
the Spaniard Don Francisco, and John Dalmata.
Theophilus yawled for death and vanished into the Turks.
Dark as leather, already chiseled like a mosaic,
the emperor removed his insignia and shouldered into battle.
Then he became dust, and less than dust.
Author: William Logan
William Logan, poet and critic, teaches creative writing at the University of Florida. His most recent book of poems is Madame X (Penguin). His reviews appear in The New York Times and New Criterion and elsewhere.