Saturday, January 31, 2009

Orpheus, Adrift


His head [the women] threw into the river,
but it floated, still singing, down to the sea,
and was carried to the island of Lesbos.

-Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, 28.d

Before my lips kissed the gravel
of river-bottom, I looked back

and saw the lost body,
and the fingers of my severed hand

twitching for my lyre.
Even then, I bobbed up, singing.

They threw the lyre beside me
and the lyre began to play.

I could hardly hear the strings
for the noise of rushing water.

When the river slowed through the tidal flats,
I came to love the taste of salt.

For months I have drifted
among the bluefish and the tunas.

Leached of all blood and beset by sea lice,
one eye pecked by a passing gull––

I still sing. The lyre, drifting with me, plucks on.
I hear the sounds of wave-on-beach

and sense the schooly candlefish,
frenzied in the surf.

Whatever land I drift toward,
I sing for what lives there.

My hair braids through the nut-brown kelp
that tangles along the shore.

-Greg Rappleye


NOTE: The painting is Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus by J.W. Waterhouse (1900).

This poem originally appeared in Volume XXXII, No. 1 (2008) of The Legal Studies Forum (West Virginia University College of Law)


Blogger Suzanne said...

LOVE this!

11:10 AM  
Blogger Collin Kelley said...

The idea of having Orpheus' head narrate the poem is brilliant. I really love this!

12:36 PM  
Blogger Brian Campbell said...

Me too. Fine poem!

11:07 AM  
Blogger Matt Dioguardi said...

Wow! This is cool. Glad I just discovered your blog.

1:12 AM  

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