Those who are acquainted with the goddess
Know how niggardly she bestows her gifts,
Yet Aphrodite seemed to favor us.
Under her white wing we lived our idyll
Sweetly ignorant of any harm beyond
That safe horizon — when Hades' shadow
Spun a serpent in the grass as I ran
From Aristaeus, who smelled of lust;
What he had in mind was more than friendship.
As if I could love any man but Orpheus.
Had Orpheus been even ten years dead
My skin would sing the lyric of his touch.
The music love makes sacred to the heart
Plays on, tenderly remembering when . . .
He would sit at my foot, I'd stroke his head
As the long skein of a tale unwound
And clung half dreamed to imagination,
Heroic deeds with Jason, kleos won
In lands to which the Argo turned her prow.
Sailing into legend as one of them,
His weapon of choice the lyre he cradled
In the crook of his arm — and a voice
That could melt the fangs of beasts to docile drool
And please the trees and stones to follow him.
I followed him, with delicious abandon,
Love's green fool swept along like a wild
Blown leaf in a storm, to this closed realm.
He was — irresistible. I have learned
The cruel weather of the heart is the hardest
Condition of hell. Shall I blame innocence,
That dove whose lofted flight distracts the eye
Which should attend the serpent at the foot?
For this is when the Spinning Ones take tribute.
Orpheus thought he had the Fates in harness,
In this respect he was all innocence.
Gifted, handsome, accustomed to success,
He could charm the gods and alter nature,
Wrest life from death for a second chance, but
He never learned some rules cannot be bent.
And he never learned patience.
About the Author: Faye George's poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Yankee, Audubon's Sanctuary, and many other journals, magazines, and anthologies. She is the author of two poetry collections, A Wound on Stone and Back Roads, and two chapbooks, Only the Words and Naming the Place. George has received the Arizona Poetry Society's Memorial Award, the New England Poetry Club's Gretchen Warren Award and Erika Mumford Prize, among other honors; and her work is represented in Poetry magazine's 90th year retrospective, The Poetry Anthology, 1912–2000. She lives in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
Copyright © 2008 by Faye George. The poem above will appear in George's forthcoming collection, Marchenhaft, Earthwind Editions and may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.