ballō: two poems of Reginald Gibbons

Because of Aphrodite


~ from Liddell-Scott-Jones, βάλλω (ballō)


The force with which something

can be thrown, the release, the

sweep of arm and wrist—a

javelin in games, a

heavy spear in combat,

or battering blows of

winds, and these gusts, too: rain,

desire, wildfire’s roaring,

fear, and fast-falling stone-

cold night in lands of bone-

hard darkness and screaming

storm blasts that freeze the blood.


But in our stillness, a

gnat’s wings buzz, strings of an

ancient lyre resound in

pink earphones, and the small-

of-the-back bay at sun-

down is trembling, racing

dolphins leap and blow as

they surface on screen for

an instant, and real wings

of an eagle beat up

from the sea to our bluff,

it climbs up the air, we

hear three strokes and it’s gone,

from some far rocky point

your eyes flash, from bright forge

and through wood smoke we’re both



[Published in The Rag-Picker’s Guide to Poetry, edited by Eleanor Wilner and Maurice Manning, Univ. of Michigan Press, 2013, pp. 110-111]




Eros, Who Cannot Be Thwarted


~ Sophocles, fragment 684, LCL 483


overpowers not just

and unjust human beings

only, but animals

too and gods—whose breath trembles,

shakes, stops, bursts, when he wings

into them, at times coming

from great distances to

their culmination.  Sometimes

Great Zeus Himself retreats

from the overthrowing come-

liness of the mortal

body—He Himself is far

too weak—even He!—to

ward off Eros.  Even He

wants, more than anything,

anything, just to give in.



[This is a reworking of a fragment included in Sophocles, Selected Poems: Odes and Fragments, translated and introduced by Reginald Gibbons, Princeton University Press, 2008, p. 27]