Awake to Follow
A day to wander. So pale white
her face, Eurydice, “she of wide power”
not petting pretty, not shrinking fleeing rodents.
Bacchante, rampaging over hills, lamenting,
tearing wildly. Lips smeared
red. Eclipsed by shadow, asp
slid angry toward her heavy stamp.
Killed while fleeing (Apollo, as usual)…
The lyre player’s body-mirror, Eurydice,
emerged half-mad, half-mud,
staring inward, climbing
soul ladder from Egyptian tomb,
bucket, pulled from deep well.
Notes clung to plucked rungs.
Her steps, rhythmic pulse and drag
of injured foot: a drum he’s never heard.
She would not mount the last…
Orpheus, do not turn away from all you sense
to merely see. Turned to bark sharp orders.
No longer at his heels: disobeyed, dragging, drifted.
Did you really want her back?
Ancient gods: Izanagi of the seven divine generations.
Izanami, mother of islands. Twinned, spoused.
White her face, shielded with sleeves
cascading from her twelve-layered robes.
Dragonflies sang over her corpse
one hundred and eighty-three days.
Behind him he heard her layered robes
of heavy winter silk shiver
and pull across chill stone.
When he turned, (why try to see her face?)
she dropped the veils of sleeves she held across her cheeks.
Hellish winds whirled — he saw
her haggard cheeks of chalk,
demons snarling behind her black-dyed teeth
In her great shame, she would no longer follow,
but cursed humans with death. He births two
for her every one – frail gasp of life
to death’s slow purge. Twin’s Eternal Duel.
She’s more fully arrived in mortality than he in restlessness.
Village wife of prosperous river wandered
dry chaparral. Digging iris corms, transfix-
ed by brilliant flutter-by. Soot-black, Shasta Blue.
She followed the pattern of his breechcloth
(eye’s silent mouth gaping open)
beaded headband on his wings.
Lost the trail home; she followed
to the land of his people, silent butterfly
dancing ahead. Despite his beauty,
a greedy mouth, pulsing abdomen.
She watches the flirt and veer of other wings.
Greedy, lustful reaches for other brilliants:
Aphrodite Fritillary, Amethyst Hairstreak,
Cattleheart. Lost the path he’d traced.
Found herself, pale alone in charred hills,
where manzanita re-sprouts from root-crown.
Mother could never speak his name without crying.
Mourned for his dead wife and would not give up mourning.
Fetch across bounded worlds, seeking
her where the dead dance without bone or blemish,
without caper or dark shadow.
The dancing dead smell like flowers underwater, winter cold;
the living stink of fire and bear fat. Vine and charred deer
creep thru braided channels of the body.
It’s the curve of her back he misses most.
How could she ever thirst again for his mouth,
spring of water in shaded canyon.
Moment of exquisite temptation, more
than (living) he can resist.
That night his hunger dreamed of giving birth,
turned to reach for her body
with single flesh-eye, poor blind frog.
Waking, his lips touched the shadow of her shade.
No dance is human once hunger’s been appeased.
Roberta Feins received her MFA in poetry in 2007 from New England College. Her poems have been published in Five AM, Antioch Review, The Cortland Review and The Gettysburg Review. Her first chapbook, Something Like a River, was published by Moon Path Press in 2013. Roberta edits the e-zine Switched On Gutenberg (http://www.switched-ongutenberg.org/).