High Relief by David Havird

High Relief

David Havird

There are no eyes on you unless they are
the rabbit’s. No eyes that know you from home.
You picture there the dog, black nose
in the dingy carpet, her dreaming legs—

chasing a rabbit? Off it scuttled, that rabbit,
under a yellow blossoming cushion of thorns.
A word formed in your mouth, lagobolon,
and formed in your hand the knotty grip of a cudgel

for braining hares. No eyes, unless they are
the rabbit’s under the spiny spurge. You strip,
flinging your clothes on a rock, and swim.
The goat path down had seemed to wait for feet

only to meet each footsore step of yours
with a bruising stone. In this blue cove’s deep hue,
the blue of the sky is also swimming—as you
are also flying? Before you dress, you pose

beside that rock with clothes. Not only the sun
but also self-regard is gazing.
Exhibit yourself you do, but seemingly
so have hands posed you, if lulls have hands

(as weather has its sculpting hands), your space
become a marble headstone, and you,
in high relief, a hunter gripping a cudgel—
if not a god or quite a hero, still

a figure whose nakedness renders him absent. Grief,
the graybeard father, who leans on a staff,
fingers his lips; a lad, the hunting done,
hugs his knees, his head inside an elbow;

the dog—she’s nosing a scent. You swam it off,
the scent that trailed you here to this
Elysium. Put on those dirty clothes,
which have the bite of onion. Sweat!


The headstone as described is a “grave stele,” the “stele of the Ilissos River,” on exhibit at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

About the Author

David Havird is the author of three collections, of which the most recent, Weathering (Mercer University Press, 2020), includes prose memoir as well as poetry. New work of his is out or will be soon in Birmingham Poetry ReviewLiterary ImaginationLiterary Matters, and Raritan. He taught for thirty years at Centenary College of Louisiana. For more about him visit davidhavird.com.