Monday, March 3, 2008


As a poet, I have often wondered what it must have been like to be Orpheus, the great Greek granddaddy of rhapsodes, bards, and beatniks everywhere. I wonder what kind of a person he was like? Was he as amorous as Ovid, for instance, or more of a family man like Nabokov? Did he dress up and get drunk, like Dylan Thomas, for Halloween? When I picture Orpheus, for some reason, I can never get the picture of Harpo Marx out of my head. To each his own, I guess.

Although anybody beating on a pickle drum in Union Square Station could induce a few felicitous souls already on drugs or disposed toward motion to dance, it takes something extra special, I think, a little bit of latent madness, or maybe malice, to coax a Megalith to move, or a cliff to clap. I have a feeling Orpheus was such a man. I wonder if he and I would have been friends?

An Anthem for Orpheus

Some animals were gathered in a ring
Around a poet, playing with a song;
He sighed and plucked a solitary string,
“It’s music. What could possibly go wrong?”

The lion lying there, beside the lamb,
Drifted off to sleep in the tall grass;
Brooks trickled in, and so did boulders, and
Humanity stood up, as if at Mass.

He handled his equipment with such skill
He held a brief monopoly on sound.
He plucked another string, and then another—til
A mushroom cloud erupted over town.

Some say this was the first experiment
Mixing religion, politics and art.
The town was made of music, not cement:
Construction in cement had yet to start.

No comments: