If Atlas Could Run

If Atlas Could Run

 

I wonder if Atlas could run

with all that weight on his shoulders.

 

There must have been a time

before his knees were locked in combat

with the eternal burden of gravity

that he could run about, carefree.

 

I have known such times

where the sun shines on blue skies

and Gaea’s warmth embraced my soles.

Days half-remembered from window panes

 

drinking coffee under the constellations

before the myth became reality.

——

 

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The Golden Apple

The Golden Apple

 

It’s a wonder Paris could choose

who would get the golden apple

when I can barely part with one

that has red and yellow spots.

 

Yet he thrust it into the palms

of the porcelain god Venus

without a pause to consider

the empty pit in his stomach.

——

 

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AFTER THE FALL

He was old. So old, the new wrinkles in his face seemed to have seen more deaths than most people alive. His feeble body sprouted legs from beneath his torso, though they had shriveled from lack of use that they looked as though they more like twigs, ready to snap at any moment. His skin had gone from leathery to baked and hard. Blood spots appeared on his fingers as he moved them around. Yet still, he had to keep them moving. The doctor had said it was one thing to lose the legs, but losing the arms would be too much.

His face was shrunk as well, so much that he looked like a ghost. The one unchanged feature in him was his mind. His body had failed to weather the storm of time, but the mountain in his head was unmoved. The people of the village had dedicated a room in his honor, which was kept constant with fire so that he never felt the chill of winter. All they had asked in return were his stories.

Stories he had plenty. They enjoyed the stories from the time before, when people lived in the long abandoned buildings out beyond the hillside, but he preferred the one that followed. The calamity had destroyed many lives, but those that rose from the ashes were reliant on others. It was the great time, in his mind, of human caring. With no family to speak of, he was grateful he lived in such a time, where he would not have to fear being thrown out in the cold until he was ready to die.

That day was soon coming though, he knew. In their hearts, he thought all people knew, unless they were taken before their time by something unexpected, like a runaway bus. That had been a story the children had loved, though the parents had scolded them for laughing. But what did he care if they laughed? So long as they learned and lived, there was little worry if they laughed.

The days for laughter were long passed him. Now, some god had sentenced him to suffering. He felt like Tithonus, yet his Eos had died many, many years ago. They all had. At times, he pondered leaving the village. The cold would be good for him—he had known many good souls take their own lives in the cold. His best friend had done it, and it was said he rode great wild beasts in the dreams he lived, in those last moments.

Perhaps that day could be today. In the silence, after everyone left, he put his hands on the armrests and tried to lift himself. His arms shook, his skin cracked, and he heaved heavy breaths of air, but he could hardly rise an inch. He knew, deep down, even if he had risen, his legs would have fallen after a moment, and he would have had to crawl with half the bones in his body broken.

It was a vain fantasy, to wish to leave these good people alone, but one he greedily played in his mind. Over and over it spun, like the wheels of fire the men danced with outside. He could hear them now, chanting for the sun to come; for the cold not to claim too many of their babes. The mothers joined in to, and he listened to their voices. Strong. Loving. He listened until he felt the calm of sleep finally take him.

——

 

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BAT SONGS

The shade of bats fluttering in the distance engulfed the lights of the stars, like lines of black paint against the night. The chill metal of the bench was sharpened as they passed overhead; their shrill chatter echoing in my ears. Their beckoning song seemed to call out, “Sleep, Ulysses.”

——

 

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SKINNY DIPPING

Swimming in the blue-black starlight

like a spaceship drifting through the cosmos

I thought I caught a glimpse of Venus

sitting by the shore of the basin.

 

But when I turned to look again

it was only the fleeting whispers of a dove

perched on a rock in regal white feathers,

the rays of moonlight dancing on its wings

 

and I was there, frozen;

waiting for the bird to take flight

so that I could dress in peace

and not be caught naked by Zeus.

——

 

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WORDS AND IRONWORKS

I wasn’t born to be a poet.

With a name like “Smith,” one is only fit

to work over a hot fire with iron and steel,

and yet somehow the words chiseled their way

into the forge of my life.

 

The sound of my pen spattering paper

rung out like an imagined hammer,

shaping the letters of Apollo

into a work more spectacular

than those creations I’d made for Vulcan.

 

For though the glint of the ironworks

could be heard throughout the village,

it was the letters sung between drinks

that filled it with happiness

and when the time came for another pair of sons

to be whisked away on bloodied spikes

the solace of words meant more to the mothers

than the stained return of mail

to be buried with the bodies.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #55 – TRUTH LIES

I was tripping, falling in love,

when I saw you through the stained glass

of the yellow church window doves.

You were standing on sunset grass

bidding farewell to the preacher,

and as I crossed the brown tile

the sunlight engulfed your features.

You looked like Apollo’s angel

and if I am to know myself,

then it must be that I know you.

For your eyes held the vatic health

that prophets see happiness through.

And though I’m no sight for sore eyes

you’ll find my love is where truth lies.

——

 

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DERAILED (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Sympathizers

Wolves ambushed walkers

who were enjoying the day.

They blamed the walkers.

 

Oppression

The debts have been paid,

and iron shackles removed,

yet they still suffer.

 

Tunnel Vision

The Cyclops reared back,

blind to the malice he’d forged

by fighting heroes.

 

Derailed

In dusty ruins

lies the failing of progress:

derailed by pride.

 

Rooting

Do you think sinners

saw their blasphemy rooting

in their prejudice?

——

 

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SPILLED TEA

It was a fine summer day

 

the kind of day that is made

for drinking lemon iced tea

on white-cushioned porch chairs.

 

the kind of day filled with children,

laughing as they dodge between

sprinkler arcs and tree branches.

 

Which is why, when the phone rang,

we felt a kind of ominous shock

as the peaceful air was broken

by the impending sound of technology.

 

Part of me wishes we had smiled

and kept still in our cozy seats.

Part of me wishes we had unplugged

it and let the cord hang there, limp.

 

But the call of the electric siren

is a hard spell to resist,

and like Butes before us

we were seduced to answer.

 

The voice on the other side was sweet,

like a bar of milk chocolate

devoured far to hastily.

 

Your father had a heart attack.

 

And suddenly, that perfect day

felt utterly rotten.

——

 

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BOREAS (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Aeolus

When he bagged the winds

the whole world grew silent

and it was quite dull.

 

Eurus

The wet summer wind

arriving here this early

is unexpected.

 

Boreas

The shutters slam closed

while the low howl of winter

demands he come in.

 

Notus

Zucchinis shriveled

as the bountiful gardens

became a desert.

 

Zephyrus

He greeted their cries

with the tender compassion

of a humble man.

——

 

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