Argos of Alexandria Remembers Philo

Λόγος = the Word, wisdom; חכמות = Hokmot, wisdom (Hebrew); Θεονύμϕα = Bride of God; Χριστος = Messiah

Philo Judaeus, inky-fingered, daily
escaped his fractious labor to sooth his burning
brain with talk and the smooth pungency of camomile
here behind my private lattice, where sinuate
female Nubians serve arak.

Now he’s dead, dead too soon to see
the good or harm his Words engendered, Words
now impelling their prophesied, hoped-for Messiah
— he was, I mean, a Jew — to mystic power
in Rome and all the world.

Coarsely, alive, he taunted me. “Your wife,
they say, though frail and half a lifetime younger
than you, you may not chasten, for now she calls herself
in Greek, Θεονύμϕα, being Bride of Χριστος.
And since that day …”
Suddenly sober, he demanded to know, of me,
whether Jeshua Χριστος had read his books,
claiming he, Philo Judaeus, Hellenized Jew,
had invented (should I say discovered?) a magic conjury
to make Χριστος master of mankind.

“Λόγος,” he declared, “the Only Begotten Son
of G-d.” Also, I thought, offspring of Greek
Λόγος and חכמות, a Jewess; not to mention
Jeshua’s disciples have made their God a Greek,
begetting on a virgin.

His finger crooked at me. His eyes gleamed.
Arak spilled down his beard. “The Χριστος, they say,
learned his Greek as a child. And …” He laughed,
his mouth was red and wide and wet. “And,
since that day she cudgels you!”

His gleam became a gloat. “Your Θεονύμϕα
is but an emanation of Mark Apostle,
and Mark Apostle of Χριστος, and Χριστος of God.
You, Argos of Alexandria, of pagan intellect,
are cudgeled by God.”

Bullockdung, my pagan intellect told me. Philosopher,
you sculpt Words from Chaos imagining them Truth.
Θεονύμϕα, though comely as your Sulamitess,
and chastened of Χριστος, is still my wife.
She cudgels on her own account.

He knew my mind. “You deserve worse, pagan,
idly you’ve neglected due measures to subdue her,
and neglected the disciplined study of our books
to sip arak and gaze from here at the chattering,
alliaceous women of Alexandria.”

Pharos towered over the harbor. In the street,
bare-limbed, jouncing Jewish girls flaunted
wool and linen, lustrous raven hair.
Philo sipped arak. The insinuating Nubians
laughed softly.

“See, idle pagan, I sculpt not from Chaos.
And the Christians missed the end of the riddle. In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word became flesh, …”
— the girls frolicked, the Nubians filled his glass —
“… and the flesh became Word.”

Christians charge he was Stoic.
Jews avoided his funeral.
Vulgar Romans rule the city.
Was I his only friend?

Miamisburg, Ohio, 2012