Poem – David Beach

Laboratory Hill


The three young women, two young men – the 

loveliest the island of Greece could provide – 

were briefly joined by a sixth, a young woman

who managed to burst through the cordon of

priests. Then a young man nearly made it

through. But order was restored and the

five – each with their attendants/guards, high

priest, and the whole led by Giorgos, high

priest to Zeus – taken the final distance to

the crater. Here Giorgos stepped to one side,

maintaining precedence by holding aloft

his falcon-headed staff, while the youngsters

were marched to the tip of the platform which

had been built out over the hellish drop.


Making the drop indeterminate,

even while contributing to its

hellishness, steam hissed up from the depths,

still thick enough and whispering enough at

the crater lip to suggest spirits come

to witness this augmenting of their

ranks. The depths were also producing

rumbling, and tremors, some so severe as

to hold out the prospect there would be bonus

recruits. Giorgos himself, petitioning

Zeus to show favour to the Greeks, though

his resonant tones were unimpaired, was

standing noticeably further back from

the brink than strict ceremony required.


Proof against any scrutiny was the

pious fervour with which, breaking off his

supplications, Giorgos jabbed at the heavens

with his staff, enjoining as he did so

the faithful to behold evidence of

the divine will (and indeed, wheeling high

above could be seen – Giorgos was claiming

five though this was debatable – white

falcons, Zeus’s sacred bird and nesting

only on the mountain, inside the very

crater many believed) – Giorgos still seeming

to want to put his own white (silver)

falcon aloft as his exhortations turned

to the need to enact the divine will.



David Beach

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