Hephaistion and Alexander





Written many years before "Brokeback Mountain," here's my poem about two men in a tent. One of them is Alexander the Great, the other is his boyfriend Hephaistion. These are not sheep herders in Montana: they are soldiers at the dawn before a great battle. Jared Leto (above) played Hephaistion in the 1994 film, but to me he looks more like Jesus than a Greek warrior.


Sleepless Hephaistion
is watching the dawn
steal gold from Alexander's hair —
the dozing god for whom a globe
gave way, high on a rock,
asleep, their tent a sail to catch
the suneast rising.

Soon horns will stir the troops
into another march. All eyes
will be on the Macedonian boy
for his commands. Nations
lay by their futile defense
topple their deities,
Persia and Babylon supine
as women eager for conquering,
Asia and the scented Chin of Flowers,
and many-templed India
waiting for his aegis in temple dance
of preordained surrender.

Empire may steal him again for a day,
a bride may blush at his summoning
to seal another chain to Macedon--¬-
but night will bring him back
(so dreams Hephaistion,
his hand upon unarmoured breast,
his lips upon the unscarred neck,
his eyes awash in godgold curls)

Since jealous gods listen,
he cannot say “I love you”
to the earth’s emperor.
All he can do is whisper
to his own inner listener:
He’ll meld the world into a ball,
repeople it with Hellene rule,
journey it from Atlantean to Eastern Sea--¬
yet all he is
and owns are mine!


Empire enough,
this naked conqueror
my arms enfold to heartdrum pulse.
Reft of the joy of being god,
it is enough
to possess one.

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