Cooper Renner

Philoctetes / Sophocles / Melita

Because he was Greek and not barbaros; because he was a soldier writing of soldiers; because he could not reason with the unreasoning night, I pity him, lonely evermore.


Hai! let Philoctetes cry in his misery, the hero's knees biting the sand, arms flung outward to the ship, his fellows forsaking him, Hera's accursed. Biting the sand, arms arched upward into the sky, his god forsaking him, Hera's accursed. The sand splashed by his pizzle like a wolf's, and one star only shining down, its light yellow as honey.


He goes on three, a wounded cur, lifting the suppurus of the fourth, the bitten heel, to his thigh--or dragging it behind, as though from the dissocketed hip of a hart the wolves have torn.
    Or does he stand on one, ignoring the pulsing fester, the dark dealings of the gods, leading with the staff of the halt and lame though he dreams of the larruping lope of the pack at midnight, of sniffing female rump, of awaking from his caninity to murmur like a man in the pit of the night, reft of all life's gifts, unable to bite down his laugh?


Does he remember the boat by which he left Chryse?
    He says it was a dream, that he sailed with the moon, nuzzling her breasts and calling her Mother.
    Does he remember eating the lotos?
    It was ever honey he ate, and the comb dripped inside the ribcage of the wolf.
    Does he remember the bite of the viper, the temple his shot foot rendered unholy?
    It was the wolf who bit me, who healed me with his bite. It was the curled pelf of my shins that made me holy, the curve of her hands around my calves which invited me in. When I bowed to her over the font, it was the lean snout of my brothers I saw gazing back at me; it was then she named me Lykos.


Call me Sophocles, who translates the gods to the Athenians. Because I am Greek and not barbaros, because I am a soldier writing of soldiers, because the gods have whispered in my ear an anguish that finds no cure, and Echo babbles pitiless in the capsule of my skull.


Let the pads of his paws find their rhythm among the stones of Hagar Qim for he is the sun-barque of his Goddess.
    Let his bristling ears hearken to her footsteps on the pavements of Ggantija for he is the eros of his Goddess.
    Let the sinews of his throat tauten in the passages of Ta' Hagrat for he is the strophe of his Goddess, turning at the summit where the moon burns like the honey she scatters from her palms to the dappled beasts of the field.

Cooper Renner's fiction, most of it concerned with his Maltese lycanthropic cycle, has appeared in New York Tyrant, Keyhole, Anemone Sidecar, Sleeping Fish and other magazines. Mud Luscious Press will publish the illustrated chapbook Dr Polidori's Sketchbook in March. His art has also appeared in such magazines as Lamination Colony and Upstairs at Duroc, as well as in several chapbooks from Bannock Street Press, most recently Meg Pokrass's Lost and Found.

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