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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
The myth of Orpheus, resonating in my mind and mixing with the tragedies in my life, resulted in this poem...

Submitted: June 29, 2017

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Submitted: June 29, 2017





"The maniacs tore him limb from limb,

and threw his head and lyre into the river Hebrus,

down which they floated, murmuring sad music."


Only a bloodstained head,

mouth agape.

Gaze of vacant frozen eyes:

does it pierce this vast darkness?

Or was that myth, leading us astray?

Without your hand’s fertile gestures

your song can’t stir the stagnant air.


When you were whole: 

you wandered dreamlike

behind night's heavy eyelids,


to the rustling boughs pregnant with fruit,

the heartbeats of worlds still in the womb,

and the far-off cries of the newly born…

or was it an animal being sacrificed?


You drifted through

the veins of days embalmed with sunlight,

stopping only to touch

a gentle lover's hands, neck, hair;

water that flashed through fingers;

the worn crisscrossed gullies of your brow,

an overripe fruit's smooth red skin,

arteries of a fallen leaf,

a lily's throat...


Oh, and when evening came

and fetal darkness grew

curled in on itself,

didn't you sense the secret

that had escaped us:

that silence between breaths,

between systole and diastole,

didn’t you see it open

and show itself,

silent dark mouth?


Those born without speech would know:

How soon it'll all reveal itself

To reduce even our innermost songs

to stammering. Songs that we always

lifted easily outwards from ourselves.

In the overwhelming gust of silence

we'd just begin to hear, half-deaf,

only our own small momentary voices.


Thus our arrival.

We praise the sensitive, then are

startled when their delicate faces

shatter: for they've seen

what is for us impossible.


We've woken to find masks

clinging stubbornly to our stifled skin,

as tightly as skin to skull,

banyans rooted to earth.

But a mask's eyes never fit the face.

Can't you see through them,

our eyes shaking with fear?

From your dark alcove,

guardian of visions, you must see too

how all the temple spires have become

but spits to hold our gruesome heads aloft,

mouths dangling open, dumb.

The sacrificial blood's been wasted:

though it seems we're meant to desire

our own redemption.  Impulses dissipate

into ritual: the sacred vases, the gowns

trailed over cold marble, bare feet

slowly climbing endless stairs,

our eyes staring at our hands, burdens.

We're carrying them like we hold ourselves.


Can’t you hear them, then,

those meaningless vowels wandering incoherently

through the cold night looking for each other?

They'd embrace like a reunion of dead leaves

swept by the wind into some dark corner,

to command a magic awakening act:

trees of a new language sprouting out of sleep.

Even so we're reluctant to hew the old ones,

whose garbled intonations are but

sleepers' senseless utterances.


In a snowfield, footprints suddenly ending:

open space and cold stars swallow all sound.

Who knows what last anguished cries

accompanied your vanishing?

Even your songs couldn't have helped you then.

Your disappearance as complacent

as branches sway gently in wind

or snowflakes melt on a bird's wing…

Couldn't your journey have ended differently?


Now as if in answer

all the voices in the air

clump together, coagulate--

Spat out:

a brief dark broken secret.

We must have known it once:

your end itself is your oracle.


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