Issue 129, Winter 1993
Eight Months Pregnant in July, High Noon, Segesta
Segesta ... seems to have been founded in 12c BC by the Elymni. . . . It was rapidly Hellenised, however, and was in continual warfare with Selinunte from 580 onwards, seeking the alliance of Athens in 426. After the destruction of Selinunte in 409 Segesta became a subjectally of Carthage, and was saved by Himilco (397) from the attacks of Dionysius of Syracuse. In 307, however, Agathocles sacked the city, killed 10,000 of its inhabitants. . . . It was finally destroyed in the 10C by the Saracens.
—The Blue Guide to Sicily
“... Tell me, Selig, please, what does this word Venus mean?” asked Hayim.
“. . . remember the strange looking man who appeared a week ago wearing an apron and a red cap, the one who sold licorice cookies and other such things for practically nothing?”
“He was a Greek and there is a whole group of people called Greeks.”
“And they all sell licorice cookies?”
“Don’t be silly, they have their own land: Greece. . .
They once were a very strong and learned people. . . . And even though they were very learned and knew how to paint, sculpt, carve, and appreciate fine things, they were nothing but idol worshippers serving false gods.”
—“Venus and Shulamith” by I. L. Peretz
It was foolish planning to arrive at noon
But, in retrospect, it doesn’t really matter.
There was a bar, after all, where we bought water
And my husband bought a sun hat for the daughter
We dared not bring, exposed, into that sun
And I thought I’d make it another joke-legend:
Eight months pregnant in July, high noon, Segesta,
The people at the bar agreeing, “She’s American,”
Which from them was less judgmental than amused.
It was hard climbing in the stifling heat
With my enormous belly up that hill
But, probably, the belly stood me well.
How do you approach a recluse temple?
I’d have Ion myself as obsolete
If not for my peculiar role as conduit,
Conducting the implausible, attended air
On a circuit of an inaccessible heart
As if the god they built the temple for
Might leave those tiny, rumbling chambers streaked
With razzmatazz extracted from the stars
Or some other godly gift, say, lunar poise
If its Artemis (they don’t know which it is);
Usually, I bargained for intact
In my absurd negotiations on this subject
But resting, lopsided, against a pillar,
I let its sprawled dimensions contradict
Whatever truce I’d made with hope and failure.