Antinous–god, hero, ancestral spirit, gay, bisexual–many are the takes on him. I won’t offer a position as I think he is as fluid as the Nile, but here is a poem I wrote a few years ago and appropriate for this time of commemoration of his death and renewal.
If you are not familiar with him, he was the emperor Hadrian of Rome’s beloved. A veritable encyclopedia about him can be found at Aedicula Antinoi. Marguerite Yourcenar, the French lesbian writer, wrote an amazing and beautiful novel Memoirs of Hadrian that portrays their relationship.
The sun, fallen in the west, stains
The desert with blood, the wind
Wheezes through red rock canyons,
And in the oasis petals fall on still pools—
Petals dyed red with an alchemy of
Lion’s blood spilt in the Black Land,
And of the amor of an emperor and his
Boyfriend, whose wine-ripe body slipped
Beneath the waters of the Nile. For you Antinous,
I weave a garland. There are so many flowers,
So many transfigured youths: Cyparissus, Hylas, Adonis, Hyacinthus…
But these are the reddest (no pale blooms of Hades here!)
Fierce with the vigor of Bythynia’s
Pine-shaded torrents and the lupine paths of Arcadia.
Out of the turbulence of the emperor’s grief
(far to the south soft pink clouds of locusts mass)
You have made Your way through the Western Lands,
Borne on the lilt of soft chants: “O boat of millions of years!”
While tears fall into the silted waters of Africa,
From whence the lotus rises again in immortal hues of sunrise.