Orpheus

March 12, 2019

Orpheus,
after Lot’s wife,
the second-most remembered
victim of life’s rearview mirror,
might have preferred the life of a pillar of salt
to living out his days
second-guessing and revisiting
the same lightning bolt
agony every time his chin moved
toward his shoulder.

Orpheus,
after his head-turning no-oh shit-oh no-no moment,
is second-most remembered
as the archetypal poet,
as word-wielding, web-weaving charmer.
And what poet, having completed the last line
of his greatest creation yet, could not
look back over the irresistible brilliance
he has just brought forth
from the depths?

Orpheus,
even after years of painful recrimination,
may never have seen Eurydice as second-most important
love of his life.
But what poet has not been haunted
by the dread possibility that seeing the world
with the poet’s wonder,
exploring its subterranean mysteries,
and coaxing its unspeakable depth
into words, might just be
the only thing worth living for?

Adelia Prado
Trans. Ellen Watson