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Albert Frank Moritz (1947-)

Orpheus


              1He glanced around to check if the treacherous gods
              2had really given him the reward promised for his accomplished song
              3and there she was, Eurydice restored, perfectly naked and fleshed
              4in her rhyming body again, the upper and lower smiles and eyes,
              5the line of mouth-sternum-navel-cleft, the chime of breasts and hips
              6and of the two knees, the feet, the toes, and that expression
              7of an unimaginable intelligence that yoked all these with a skill
              8she herself had forgotten the learning of: there she was, with him
              9            once more
            10just for an instant as she vanished. And then he heard her from
            11            behind
            12the invisible veil, absence: a shrill and batlike but lexical indictment.
            13Why had he violated the divine command, why, when he had seized
            14all song to himself and robbed her of power to open her own
            15            oblivion?
            16It grew in volume and now seemed to spew from an insane old
            17            mother with one breast
            18hanging like a huge withered testicle from a rent in her weathered
            19            gown,
            20who was being watched by a tall woman, copper-helmet-coiffed,
            21            richly suited in salmon colour,
            22a mythical allusion, since salmon were long extinct in the bays and
            23           rivers here:
            24songs never brought them anymore. The young restrained breasts
            25           and the old free one
            26oppressed him equally and he went to live among men, waiting for
            27           the crazy
            28and the competent to join forces and come for him with their
            29            scissors.
            30Orpheus listened patiently to my poem and when it quieted he said
            31            to me:
            32That wasnít it at all. I sang outward from my face to blue spaces
            33            between clouds,
            34to fern fronds, and men and women sipped my song as you drink
            35             from a stream going by.
            36What I sang is lost in time, you donít kmow what it was, all you have
            37            is your own
            38old stories about me. And if women tore me into pieces, maybe that
            39            only signifies
            40each one keeps part of my body, which is melody among visible
            41            things.

Notes

13] Hades, god of the underworld, let Orpheus take his beloved Euridice up into the world of the living, with one condition: he should not look back at her until they both had finished their journey to life. Yet Orpheus did so, lost Euridice, and suffered death himself when a group of maenads, worshippers of Dionysis, tore his body into pieces in rage that he refused to sing for them.


Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Albert Frank Moritz or the Ekstasis Editions permissions department.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Conflicting Desire (Victoria, BC: Ekstasis Editions, 2000): 74-75.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2004
Recent editing: 1:2004/7/22


Other poems by Albert Frank Moritz