THE WILD WILL WIN AFTER ALL

 

(In Greek mythology, Pan challenged Apollo to a musical competition, with the mountain-god Tmolus as the judge. Tmolus proclaimed Apollo the winner, to the agreement of everyone else except King Midas. This is Pan’s interior monologue afterward.)

 

What does Tmolus know?

Nothing.

I play Nature’s music—
Apollo plays the Sun’s.
His burns like an ephemeral bonfire:
in the end, it's nothing but bones and ash.
Mine carries with it the wind
as it whispers through the trees.

But here I am again, en-wombed
in my self-same, silvery sanctuary,
eating grapes and tossing stems
over my shoulder,
watching the nymph’s hair glimmer
as she swims so slowly.

In her hair shines an amber hue
into which
I would dive.
To let it fill my lungs and lather my eyes, 
to bathe in honey,
I would die.

But the moment it comes,
the moment it goes,
and all I can feel is the pain of
not having grasped it.

I watch the butterflies live and die
again and again,
like I watch the twilight orange
silently leave the horizon
day in and day out,
always and forever.

And I lost Syrinx.
I lost Syrinx.
I lost her.

But that’s the birds singing.

And I have my syringe. 
And I have my reeds.
And I’ve got lungs of immortal winds.
But gently I blow, 
and gently I breathe,
song into life
and lust into thee—
whoever thee may be.

Don’t thee see?

I am Pan.
I am Man.
I am Animal.
I am God….

What does Tmolus know?
Midas knows the Sun is fool’s gold.
My music will never burn out—
it comes from the blood-sodden soil, 
the earth, the guts of Gaia.

My melodies stir the feral fuck.

But for now I’ll just lie back
and ripple the mercury with my finger
while the mermaid floats by
and the siren sings her hypnotic lullaby.
Their fins spin eddies in a whorl.
My whorl will soon be felt.
But for now I'll just ooze
the clouds with my finger.
Drip and drop and drift in waves.

Tmolus knows nothing of music.
His ear is crude and insensitive.
He can’t hear the woody raking or wiggling;
the high, sailing overtones;  
and definitely not the gossamer timbre
or the airiness of the wisp.

No matter what Tmolus thinks
he knows, I’ve got something on Apollo:
the sun will extinguish like a licked wick,
and humans will live on.
And as long as they do
I’ll pluck my gut strings
and I’ll finger my flutes.
And thus they will lust.
If they want to fuck they must.
So here I go. 
I'll blow with a gust.

But gently I blow, 
and gently I breathe,
song into life
and lust into thee—
whoever thee may be.

Don’t thee see?

I will win after all.

FARTHER THE SUN

they walk aloft the leaves
when fall breathes cold air
somewhere above the trees
a crow calls
flakes fall
and they can smell the coming snow
as they walk into the woods
they look up and look down
and take brief pauses to look around
their heads swivel and eyes shine
brighter than the flood lights behind the house
but not brighter than the full moon's light
pouring down through the trees more and more with each moment
a crimson leaf folds and crunches beneath the son's boot
but it's still wet enough to retain its shape
red enough to believe it’s safe
from the cold ground
that the dad’s boots walk on
the son behind and then in front
forward and backward running circles
around the dad
but less steady
the dad has moments of his son
 a consciousness
the son has moments of his dad
 a feeling that he’s there
the dad stops to look around and behind
the son stops to look ahead
and has a vague sense of the hill to climb
they follow the path
which has soft fresh dirt by the pine tree
disturbed with no leaves
but they go around downed branches and step over logs and step softly
heel-to-toe on the leaves
and into a clearing
the son imagines a deer peering from the trees
they have another 200 yards
they walk up
the son in front
the dad behind
the light is less in the trees
they make it to the top however
to find it quiet and still
the dad counts off decades of yards from the morning’s tree
tomorrow of course will be soft and warm
the son waits patiently peering around the dark
feeling the presence and hearing the spark
of the fireflies as they fly by marked interstices
in the now disappearing light
the son can feel that the dad’s almost done
because the leaves that were color are now black
he knows it’s too dark
they start down the hill with headlamps glowing
their beams flowing from their heads in tunnel vision
and when they look at each other they blind one another
back past the conifer trees and the soft brown dirt
lit up in LED ghostliness
they crunch along sticks and twigs
and dead branches like bones from a metacarpal carcass
they make it back to the bottom where rocks and water sit mostly still
unless moved by the feet trying to avoid the mud
they make it past the mud
and walk towards the opening past the dirty old toys and tricycles
and balls and bicycles
and when they reach the grass they shut off
their lights
and walk side by side

CHARON'S OBOLS

The Band plays “I Shall Be Released” in the background, on loop. The phaser undulates in universal waves.

 

A Vietnam veteran looks out the window, remembering heroin salvation.

 

Then he remembers picking up his dog tag from a charred little body, beneath the thatched roof and hot, humid sun.

 

(The tight, high piano strings ring out. Levon’s snare rolls.)

 

His rough fingers turn over the cold tin. He feels the letters like brail. His heart opens. A yellow rose in a glass of water.

 

“Every possible human emotion ran through these,” he says, looking down, turning them over in his hands.

 

The metal burns bright—an incandescent, agent orange; a lost generation; eyes for the men to see as they hand-paddle canoes past rice paddies, making their way down the River Styx, twilight and surreal.

 

At the ford the he waits weeping, to give them their tolls.

 

Patrol boats surge through the waters. “Run through the Jungle” blasts through gray megaphones, intermittently drowning out salvation—drowning out “I Shall Be Released.”

 

Still, he stays behind. He waits.

 

He waits for them, crying out, calling their names.