Jacques Callot, "Ste. Hélène, Mère de Constantin," 1636

Ilium would have been found had she searched for it,
Its buried towers uncovered and exposed,
Swept of debris, stripped of its pride
Forever. The dust would have risen in clouds over the windy plain
As she uncovered it, directing the laborers
As they bent in the unmitigated Aegean heat,
To work carefully, as slowly as they ever had,
To search with their hands, not tools,
To brush the stones with their palms,
To softly wipe away what covered the past. The planks of the old
False gift might have been found, a symbol of treachery
Looming over the old world forever.
A thousand mules would have carried away the dirt,
Until Troy was revealed at last for what she was,
A ghost city as blank as snowy Olympus.

Instead she went to Jerusalem, the city she had never forgotten,
And she found what no one had ever lost
And no one had ever thought of finding,
And lifting the hidden Cross out of the pit,
She exalted it over the dusty hill country forever.

Published in the December 2023 issue: View Contents

Lawrence Dugan’s book The Sea Again: Poems is published by Finishing Line Press.

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