Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Sanctuary of Apollo” by Vivian Finley Nida. Nida is a Teacher/Consultant with the Oklahoma Writing Project, affiliated with the University of Oklahoma. She holds a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Secondary Education from Oklahoma State University.
In addition to past appearances in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, her work has appeared in Illya’s Honey, Dragon Poet Review, River Poets Journal “Windows” edition, Westview: Journal of Western Oklahoma, and the 2017 Woody Guthrie Poetry Anthology. Nida lives in Oklahoma City.
Sanctuary of Apollo
Vivian Finley Nida
How lonely sits the city that was full of people!
--The Lamentations of Jeremiah: 1
Inside the walled perimeter
through the end of the world
the home of Kourion’s protector
god of the woodlands
A low stone wall lines
ruins of the palaestra
where athletes trained
Some columns stand
Others lie collapsed
like defeated wrestlers
Pillars guard a dormitory
near the sacred way
leading to the elevated temple
Two columns soar twenty feet into leafless blue
support remnants of a portico
walls, jagged like steep stairs
Enduring in shade, stones lament
lost olive, orange, lemon groves
vineyards, cattle, donkeys
prayers to Apollo, worshippers
who feared being cast into the sea
for touching his temple
who lost faith in terra firma
when it shook their tomorrows
until the only thing certain was uncertainty
Poet’s Notes: I visited this ancient site where people worshipped Apollo from the 8th century BCE to the 4th century CE when an earthquake destroyed it. The ruins tell a story of how quickly one’s world can end, which led to this poem.
Editor’s Note: The personification of the lost city in the 7th stanza is breathtaking, allowing the ruins to literally as well as figuratively represent her lost people. I see a larger metaphor here for modern times--the lost city of Kourion as a metaphor for cities like Detroit or losses yet to come due to climate change, nuclear war, or some other catastrophe at which the final stanza hints. The imagery is strong throughout the piece. And as a bonus, Kourion is a real place (although a bit obscure--I admit I had to research it).