Life is short, and Art long;
The crisis fleeting;
Experience perilous and
Lucius spoke to Marsyas: “The Red Galley was at Full Stroke, four lengths off the dock.”
Marsyas nodded. He turned to the Supplicant. “How did they know about the challenge?” and he waited, like a cat crouched at the mouth of a gopher’s tunnel.
The Supplicant stared in front of him, trembling. My bench mates moaned and cried for help.
“Stand up,” said Marsyas.
Involuntarily, the Supplicant rose and said: “You can’t touch…”
In elegant robes, my mother floats
Through the gardens thick and fragrant;
Strong lines of care carve my father’s face
As he scratches for our fortune.
Once, during a rest, as we ate some bland slop and tossed a skin of water back and forth, I noticed our Drummer eying me. I was feeling briefly light-hearted as I watched the swift movement of the water skin above the heads of the crew. It was our game: the unwary would catch the goat skin in the side of the head. The old man stared at me across his meal of soft bread and small fish. He had apparently noticed my feet tap a song that had been running through my head, a song of childhood. He smiled.
The drum gives me Now; and its silence Then.
Keep the beat and my soul will mend.
My father was a smith. We lived in tiny Dodona in a house behind the forge. We lived with the beat of hammer and anvil, and the longer pulse of heating and cooling. Poor, we embraced the rhythms of starving awhile until we were no longer as hungry, of collapsing exhausted until we were merely tired. My mother foraged meals from thin air and I worked at the fire from a tender age.
Father made a living selling pins, hasps and latches for a few lepta each. He taught me how to repair broken tools. Craning past his massive arm, I watched him steadily beat the ripple pattern of circles on a copper sheet until it became a shapely pot, worthy of Hephaestus, whose hammer icon hung in the forge.
His master was a Guild smith, who died before father could be Journeyed. Father’s craft sprang from glimpses of techniques he was never taught, leveraged into what he needed to know.