Poetry Sunday: “Epic,” by Ange Mlinko


It’s you I’d like to see Greece again with;
you I’d like to take to a bed of cyclamen.
You know I nurse a certain myth
about myself—that I descend
de tribus d’origine asiatique
and am part Thracian or Macedonian,
cleaving to a Hellenic mystique
after centuries of migration inland.

FULL MOON over the Acropolis.
I can repeat the scene, this time à deux,
as then I had no one to kiss,
slicing halloumi amid the hullaballoo
of a rooftop taverna in July.
The doors that opened to lovers,
pulled like tree roots from darkness, I
close upon us now like book covers.

The alcove in which we embrace
is cool with brilliant tile
and weirded by a dove’s note; chase
of ouzo with Uzi, junta-style.
History makes its noise; we duck
till it passes. Love we think is our due.
Not, we think, like the epoch,
the unchosen thing we’re wedded to.



From Distant Mandate (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2017), reprinted here with permission of the press.

Listen to the poet reading “Epic” here.


Ange Mlinko is the author of several critically acclaimed books of poetry, including Shoulder Season, a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award, and Starred Wire, a National Poetry Series pick and finalist for the James Laughlin Award. Her most recent book, Distant Mandate, can be ordered in hardback here, and will be available in paperback after July 24, 2018. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Randall Jarrell Award for Criticism, she has served as Poetry Editor for The Nation. Her essays and reviews have been published in The Nation, The London Review of Books, Poetry, and Parnassus. Educated at St. John’s College and Brown University, Mlinko has lived abroad in Morocco and Lebanon, and is currently Associate Professor of English at the University of Florida. She lives in Gainesville.


Poet’s Note

“Epic” is the first installment in a series of lyric monologues by the character Psyche, drawn from the myth of Cupid and Psyche. She’s fallen in love, and she wants to sequester love from history (much as, in the myth, Psyche herself is sequestered and prevented from laying eyes on the god who makes love to her after dark each night). The word “epic” is almost homonymous with “epoch,” so there’s a play on these two words with their different roots — the former from the word for “word” or “song,” the latter from a word meaning a stoppage or fixed point in time. The love story feels big to its participants—“epic,” as in our slang usage—but its lyric moment is terribly brief in the grand scheme of things.

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  • Meryl Natchez June 24, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Lovely poem–I’ve seen the Acropolis by moonlight, been on that moonlit rooftop. So evocative. But what is the reference to James Merrill at the end?