This figure of complexity
persuades a lingering

glance, the two-fold
inclination entwined,

horror expressed
in tandem, the sons’

limbs compressed
as the father struggles,

realizing true
sacrifice, the inward

grasp of storm and
wrath and serpent,

his face
echoing those yet

to come, breached
walls, a city in

flames, the cries
of warnings unheeded.


Laocoön, through Virgil’s Aeneid, is the source of the phrase “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” The poem, which first appeared in The Blue Hour Magazine, was inspired by the sculpture “Laocoön and His Sons,” which resides at the Vatican. You might find Wikipedia’s entry of interest.

20 thoughts on “Laocoön

  1. You hooked me with that first line, “This figure of complexity persuades a lingering glance” The syntax is intriguing and so effective for the content of the poem. What I really enjoyed most in that line was your verb choice. “Persuades” is perfect – you don’t just give such a statue a cursory look, you glance and realize how rich a story lies within the art and you linger. You told a whole story in that one line. It reminds me of coming across this sculpture of Flora and Zephyr ( recently in an art museum and I kept coming back to it again and again, always seeing something new. Thank you for such an inspiring post.

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  2. As always, love the line breaks you use, Bob. I’d forgotten who Laocoön was, too, so thanks for that reminder. So much remarkable here; I enjoy how “inclination” (almost pun-like) can cut at least a couple different ways. The sibilance of “grasp of storm and/wrath and serpent” are alluring. All told, this is how a historical-leaning poem should be written.

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      • I think you’re especially expert at those, Bob. Other than maybe e.e. cummings, I can’t think of anyone so masterful at them. It’s nice to have that “automatic pilot” (oh, what’s that called in psych-speak: something mind/quiet mind, maybe?) aspect take over in writing. I’ll never be Michael Jordan-esque in the least, but I have been occasionally in the writing ‘zone’, and it’s amazing. I’m sure you’re a frequent loiterer there, tho!

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  3. Another elegant pillar of light (that’s how I see your poems) that draws me in completely, each word essential! And I learn so much from them, Bob. And they linger in my mind.

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  4. I can feel the weighing up of each word before the placing of it strategically and perfectly in each predestined slot, restrained suitably with punctuation and yet it flows unhindered. Your craftsmanship echoes that fine column. The Wiki link was so helpful and so many versions of the story… Love the Kelpies, they are just up the road from here in Falkirk. I have yet to visit them, will ponder the Trojan horse etc. when am there. What a rich gift you came bearing and so close to home. No need to Beware!!!

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