ORPHEUS


The high windows caught the sky, varicose,

livid. The house was empty, unlived-in.

He hurried down wide paths strewn with rose petals,

wind-culled and faded. He searched borders,

bushes, her features imaged and snared in shapes

of angled branch and thorn, an orange sun

searing gun-metal clouds, the fountain sprouting

papery leaves, its bronze boy greening alone.

Ivy’s grasp crumbled artifice, obscured

the basin inscribed with a sonnet.

Soughing of breath or the wind in the arbour

summoned him into its close. She was there.

Her brow on the cold pane, she saw the fire’s

mirror – then looked suddenly beyond

to examine a shape falling slowly:

a leaf, a bird, a dark star, sharpening

from blur through disc to pentangle

becoming – a man. Not the imagined

scream, the body’s slump on the terrace,

servants running towards the now headless corpse

but the incomplete moment was memorised,

the continuous present, choosing, longing:

a stranger falling to earth, without

history or songs but with infinite

consequences now not quite beginning.

The house lay far behind; through snow that flurried

eyes, rain that haled the flesh, hopelessness

choking like marsh light; through smoke from burning

stands of silver birch, a bitter smoke

that crackled forth like speech and swathed the head that

sang where it had fallen, sang finely,

like grasses or a stream, of hills as smooth as

limbs, of forests deep as memory,

of golden-helmeted horsemen cantering

eastwards over soft, wordless floors – one carrying,

by its black hair, a head scattering

blood like roses and sublimely singing.

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