Caretaker of Atlantis
By William Doreski
Atlas ruled a stony coastline
he called Atlantis. Canals
fed a vast central plain, fruit trees
prospered. The cities featured baths,
palaces, race-courses, temples,
and dredged and well-marked harbors.
Atlas was the son of Poseidon
and half-brother of Prometheus,
but because of greed and cruelty
on the part of five pairs of male twins—
perhaps his sons or his brothers—
the gods evoked a deluge
that overwhelmed Atlantis
and buried its harbors and temples
under mudslides big as continents.
Atlas, father of the Pleiades,
the Hyades, and the Hesperides,
shrugged off disaster and went to work
holding up the starry heavens,
and has done so ever since, except
on vacations and paid holidays.
Meanwhile I’ve spent my whole life
as the caretaker of Atlantis,
what’s left of it: a few marble blocks,
a witty inscription, a plain
of dried mud. I’ve nothing to do
but poke here and there with a trowel
and make sure the dead remain dead.
Occasionally Atlas stoops
from his cosmic task to make certain
I’m still on the job. The sea washes
up and over the muddy plain,
leaving rags of seaweed for me
to sweep into piles to dry and burn,
making masses of flame some people
tell me some mythic personage
might be able to see from the moon.