"White Sail/Black Sail" by George Slobodzian

(Aegeus' Lament—as performed by

the ghost of Peter O’Toole)


Do not loosen the bulging

mouth of the wineskin

until you have reached

the height of Athens,

lest you die of grief.

What the hell was that

supposed to mean?

I didn't have a clue

so went to see a king

given to such things

and he loosened more

than a wineskin's mouth

I'll tell you. To mess with

the gods Is never wise.

The outcome is always

pre-determined and never

to your advantage. Yet

mess I did. The same

with drink and women

but any shenanigans

involving all three, well

I should have steered clear,

a set up for sure, but what,

what was I really to do?

The wine was strong,

my desire stronger, and

the look in her eyes

when she lifted her tunic

immortal. I swear I nurse

the hangover still. And

what was I really to do

about the Cretans? Tell me,

what was I to do? To be

a leader who is led is as

unpleasant as it sounds

and as inevitableto be

led by one's own vanity

as I was when I sent

another man's son

to a most certain death

impaled on the horns

of that bull in Marathon.

And to be led to stand

on this height of land

overlooking my kingdom

and what will become

my sea, awaiting

the unlikely return

of my only son. But

what choice did I have?

Women had stopped

allowing their husbands

(or anyone else's)

to mount them for fear

of having one of their own

chosen and led down

the gang-plank to be

devoured by that beast

in a dead-end corridor

littered with the bones

of Athenian youth, thus

recharging another

9 years of grief. This

would never do. So

I knew there was little

I could do when my

beautiful Theseus

came to me with the

certainty of one doing

the business of the gods.

He made a good case

encased as he was

in his perfect will,

my perfect son.

Black sail or white

was all I asked of him.

What, he replied

with his mother's smile,

could possibly

go wrong?


George Slobodzian's work has appeared in literary magazines across Canada. Clinical Studies, a book of poetry, was published by DC Books, and a book of his poems was translated into German and published by Mattes Verlag of Heidelberg.

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