Once Called Byzantium

Once Called Byzantium

Once one wondered of me,
“Have you ever been to Istanbul,
that storied city of
the first called ancient song?”

My reply, of course, for having never
traveled to the extent that I would wish I will:

“Ney, but to Constantinople,
that mighty capital long before
called Byzantium is a place
to which I’ve been.

I was there at the first divine liturgy
in the Hagia Sophia, before holy wisdom
had her altar removed.

I flew carried on gospel’s eagle wings
As though aloft and secured by a multitude
over the golden ports at sunset.

At the border of the sea
I stood with the Patriarch
centuries later, who waited for unity
again with his brother,

and in his peace,
I was escorted to a chamber
so elevated and will tell you
what he revealed to me:

It was as though a catacomb
but one that rose to the sky;
a sepulcre, gold and silver guilded.

I thought it was where
Constantine himself did lie.

But the Patriarch corrected me
as he opened for viewing
an incorrupt body in a shrine

He told me the body was
of even greater heritage
and from the antique glory of Byzantium’s graced time:

He said, “Brother, look more closely
for although of Occident, you know the Orient;
you’ll see, below the head of this ancient body,
he holds a sword that is at rest.

And upon examination, I was dumbfounded
–silence and awe–
for though in Constantinople,
I, too, to Byzantium suddenly sailed

for I was taken aback and breathless
as back further yet,
in time I was called:

Inscriptions on the old metal,
they were not in the Greek
as I thought I’d see,

but in the tomb most beautifully protected
it was Aramaic that I could read.

“It is the sword of an Apostle,”
the Patriarch told me,
“this is Saint Andrew who once traveled here,

and this ancient shrine is venerated
for it is he, we hold in tradition,
who brought Christendom here!”

Then my eyes opened, I arose from the timeless travel
in the time again
of Istanbul.”

Oh dream! For Andrew dreams
to be brothers with Peter