(An International Journal of Poetry)
ISSN 2249 –2178
Volume-3 DECEMBER -2013 Number-2
THE ELECTIVE AFFINITIES iii:
THE SAMIAN MYSTERIES
By Daniel James Sundahl
I read today about a painter
Falling from his scaffold;
For a moment I can see
His shock of disbelief,
Jagged ribs knifing into lungs,
Seeing at last the mystery
He feared the most.
Other mysteries call,
Dredged up history, myth:
The last October my father hunted ducks,
Wasting shell after shell,
Nothing tumbling from the air,
Bifocals dividing what had been
For years a perfect point.
I read in Pausanias how
The wings of Icarus melted,
Fixed to his shoulders,
Leaping from the labyrinth
That world of bar-rooms and beer-reek,
Drowning then in the lyrical seas
Surrounding the Island of Samos.
With wings I made I would run to a place
That dropped steeply down.
Call it an obscure fear bed down
Deep in the brain, the sound we hear
When scaffold timbers crack and we see
A feather floating lazily down to earth:
Not once did I leap.
I stood today on the top rung of a ladder,
Drawing the saw across a branch;
An ambulance gleamed to the south
Keening after someone caught in wreckage.
In my lungs something like the swell of tide,
A jellied fruit breaking its skin,
A curled hollow of cold at dusk.
A window washer in Anchorage, one foot
In a rope's noose, swinging out to reach
The hard place, someone telling me
Only Indians work the high steel,
Bridges, skyscrapers, towers, a myth
About them eating the hearts of eagles,
Bootless taloned feet curled over I-beams.
I think of Hart Crane, Berryman, Weldon Kees,
Coming upon the syllables of a chance phrase,
Their eyes narrowing to slits, the inner lid
Closing, then a leap and a feathered lift
Out of this world into the winking imaginary
Speck at the heart of the comos, or, who knows--
A plunging drop and broken eyeglass frames.
Proofs pile up; we cry over the nightly news.
Violent contrarieties; we hope the wind will change.
I come back to the mysteries,
The spasms we feel breathing winter air,
Thinking the living are wasteful,
Squandering their objects of caring,
Unmindful that hope is a little child.
Something there is in our baggy hearts
Very near the cutting edge of life itself,
Poses perfectly, swaggers forth,
Fashions feathered wings,
Fixes them to someone's shoulders
Who then takes flight leaving
The mystery of the labyrinth behind