Orpeheus — Cordelia M. Hanemann

His voice scratches the twilight;
the strings of his lyre taut and shrill.
He plays death on the strings of night,
wooing the lovely one who followed
in the wake of his winsome song:
the lacuna love he lost and longs for still,
the one who perhaps never was,
whom he left at the gates of hell.

They say he wanders with ghost steps,
our troubadour, not through meadows
and tall grass festooned with light,
nor even through tall slim lines of trees
that once he made to dance, but
in the labyrinth of hell, among those
whose names are forgotten, among
the mouthless ones, the ones who moan,
but cannot speak. He sings death.

Into the silences between the sonorous tones,
he drives spiked words forward—
jagged knives from a ragged scabbard—
scavenging for a happy tale,
but flailing on wings of darkness.
He plays death on strings of night, sings
only the darkness of his fetid tale,
fraught with yearning and regret.

No rocks rise from the sea to dance;
no birds answer his dissonant cries;
the wild beasts flee
such sadness.

He sings the dark river flowing by
his own lissome love, elusive as a mist
in the woods. The sting of absence pulls
taut on a pulse of blood flooding
vacancy. He is life strung on the strings
of death, his lyre untuned, his voice
cracked and deepening to indigo,
while the crimson flower bursts open
and splatters into a scree of petals at his feet.

Though he wills her return, he finds always
only himself, no longer mellifluous,
no longer filled with the thrill of his love,
but only smitten with the guilt
of betrayal and the chill of his loss,
to wander alone where he would,
searching for the song.

Cordelia Hanemann
is currently a practicing writer and artist in Raleigh, NC. A retired professor of English at Campbell University, she has published in numerous journals including Atlanta Review and Laurel Review; anthologies, Heron Clan and Kakalak and in her own chapbook. Her poem, “Rapunzel or the Bad Hair Day” was performed by The Strand Project in Ohio. Other of her poems have won awards and nominations. Recently the featured poet for Negative Capability Press and The Alexandria Quarterly, she is now working on a first novel, about her roots in Cajun Louisiana.