Poetry | By Stephen Lefebure | Issue 34 (Sept, 2020)

ORPHEUS

If a song is true, each time you hear it,
Does it seem to flow from deep inside you,
From the spring where words drip out of stone?
Summoning the courage to appear, it
Plays the sound that always amplified you
In your grief, no longer just a moan.
When you cried, that sound became your spirit.
Singing is your self that life denied you
As you grew, returned to be your own.
What are feelings but how you draw near it?
Your lost self brought to you as a bride. You
Sing, and in the song are less alone.

Let instruments cease their wavering timbre.
Unplug the amps and muffle the snare.
Let someone run for booze or else steal it.
The band may hang where musicians prefer.
Music this loud (the crowd is aware)
Has too much force to ever appeal it-
Self to the heart. It may well occur
That arrangements hide what they should declare.
Being is intimate. To reveal it,
Giving it words, a hoarse whisperer
Intones the very same tune with such care
That only then can everyone feel it.

Do we fall in love, or merely fake it?
When one says “I love you,” do we feel
Happy, or as if we have been lied to?
Each relationship – do we forsake it
In advance, as if it were unreal,
Could not be real? Many of us try to.
Does serene disdain fulfill an ache? It
Fascinates some, promises to seal
Bonds more powerful than love implied to.
Yet this lure – our conscious choices make it,
Buying consolation in a deal
Those who doubt their worth sometimes decide to.

In our age we no longer expect
Miracles, or deeds which count as such.
Are we in a steady, long decline
Of wonder, still unnoticed? We reject
Sentiment, and yet a simple touch
Stops our endless falling. By design
Bodies want each other and connect
Desperately. Fingers scratch and clutch.
From the start our plan is to decline
Love, but we transform through an effect.
Spirit drinks – where does it find so much?
It there any word but the divine?

Is the sacred real, or just invented?
What is perfect awe, that we can feel it?
Wonder squished together, so we hold it?
Temporary godhead that we rented?
World itself. Compacted, to congeal it
Into spirit, so that we unfold it
In a vision, not a dream, presented
As reality. More than surreal, it
Is excess of being. Void may mold it
In the multiverse, where time is vented.
Where else can it come from? To conceal it,
We destroy the shamen who behold it.

Could a man descend from lucid song?
His parents were Apollo and the muse.
As an infant he could play the lute.
Descending, chanting all the way along,
Orpheus began with no excuse.
His words repudiated the acute
Silences expecting him so long.
Stone or shadow, nothing could refuse
Pity, nor by any art refute
The prize which lovers share when they prolong
Time, almost eternal when they fuse.
The prize death cannot cancel or dilute.

Mortals subscribe to absurdist belief.
Many mythologize, want living more
Good against evil, warfare then peace.
Orpheus’ song described autumns when leaf
Stayed upon limb. This was not merely lore.
Years when no season made branches release
Blades to pose strangely, stricken with grief.
Years when men waited in lines to adore
Women, and so serve the goddess. Increase
Pride through abasing themselves. (The relief
Men obtain shamefully now.) To implore
Love to forgive us, who rape for caprice.

That was the time before Boreas’ cold
Winds, sang Orpheus, time of warm starlight.
Time of great harvests that never ended.
Centuries men aged, and as they grew old,
Passed beyond measurement. Years when the right
Seeds would feed many, more than intended.
Years with one season. Orpheus told
Weapons for hunting, no cause to fight.
Good years unnumbered, long years that blended.
Then. Many goddesses harshly controlled,
Seized, penetrated, with no chance for flight.
Lovely Persephone… descended.

From Persephone’s mother Demeter,
Autumn and winter came swiftly to show
Barren landscapes extending inside her.
Before men could harvest their wheat, her
Sorrow covered the country with snow,
A pinkish silver, as if she cried fur.
Vague piles of color stacked at their feet. Where
Winds blew they searched for her. Everywhere, no.
It seemed an immortal had died. Per
Arrangement, they loan green Demeter
Her daughter, for just spring and summer, so
Joy and suffering sharply divide her.

Imagine landscapes of pink and blue ice.
Those are what winter remembers each year.
Land bridges linking the continents so
Peoples could migrate if they paid the price
In fingers and feet. Lakes that were clear
Prisms dissecting the sun under snow.
Hades rejecting all others’ advice,
Loving Persephone, holding her near
(If it is love to abduct one below).
When you are cold and invent paradise,
Think of how grief caused the world to appear
Frozen by sorrow that time long ago.

The darkness held a hidden spirit
Neither alive nor dead, but suspended,
Unwilling to speak. Not inclined to.
Orpheus sang to her. She could hear it
As foreign language, so she extended
Her arms – because arms are designed to
Hold something, or pull oneself near it.
Orpheus, in the dark, comprehended
Her proximity. His song outlined to
Death how loss could face and never fear it,
And informed Sleep what love found most splendid:
Mortals sharing lives they are assigned to.

Song is like water – it seems without force
When flowing, but do not hold it back.
Suddenly liquid can bite like a cuspid.
Orpheus’ song arose from the source.
What is authentic has power we lack,
Who rule from thrones in the dark and forbid.
Hades had never before felt remorse.
He let them both go with an odd drawback.
The man preceded his shadow. Well hid,
A shadow in darkness. At last of course
Orpheus looked. She faded to black.
An afterimage stayed on his eyelid.

Song is an art we do not need to guess.
His lover could never complete her climb,
But we acclaim our eloquent hero
For more than superficial success.
Orpheus explained in one lifetime
How being works, so creatures would know
That spirit alters from joy to distress
Wordlessly, as silent as a mime.
In these bodies we all undergo,
Orpheus was able to express
Existence welling, not as space in time,
But void completely filled past overflow.

Speechless things have languages as well –
They would sing to us if we could hear them,
If we paused to listen to their tongue.
Of all poets, Orpheus could tell
Beasts their natures, venturing so near them
That they felt their deaths when they were young.
This was like the breaking of a spell.
Awake, Death on his throne could fear them
For their prescience. They shared among
Each other time, the way we hear a bell
Overlap its clangs. Their doom would clear them
To live in each note as it was sung.

Who among us singers will intone
The song to waken every living being
Into sentience? Long since, the last
Success became a myth, inside a zone
No one can believe without their seeing.
Do we require magic for the vast
Empathy we constantly postpone?
Listening to stories, and agreeing
With the legend, feeling may recast
Song so that no being is alone.
Then the language that we need for freeing
Beasts will happen without being asked.

On our way to speech, we move our hands
As the primates do, because we must
Express existence we cannot convey.
We ask what everybody understands,
Settled answers which are not discussed.
Feeling the anxiety which they
Hide, we are like men in foreign lands.
Imbued with being as if breath were lust,
Time proceeds for us like one long day.
We are oceans wetting distance sands,
Planets with no solid surface crust.
What we speak we are not there to say.

Like Orpheus, our footsteps leave no trace
As we descend the path no one can see.
There is no guide into the vast unknown.
In this darkness no one has a face.
Echoes in great caverns seem to be
Voices issuing from living stone.
Finally our path enters a place
Where the floor extends out like a sea.
Here our song must find the largest tone
Possible, and slowly, with its pace,
Explain that each of us must finally
Take every step into our death alone.


Poetry by Stephen Lefebure may be found in his own volume, Rocks Full of Sky, and in Wild Song and Going Down Grand, two anthologies of nature poetry, as well as in journals like Wilderness, Oxford’s ISLE, and Bangalore Review. He lives in Evergreen, Colorado, USA. 

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