Orpheus at the Second Gate of Hades
By Yusef Komunyakaa
My lyre has fallen & broken,
but I have my little tom-toms.
Look, do you see those crows
perched on the guardhouse?
I don’t wish to speak of omens
but sometimes it’s hard to guess.
Life has been good the past few years.
I know all seven songs of the sparrow
& I feel lucky to be alive. I woke up at 2:59
this morning, reprieved because I fought
dream-catchers & won. I’ll place a stone
in my mouth & go down there again,
& if I meet myself mounting the stairs
it won’t be the same man descending.
Doubt has walked me to the river’s edge
before. I may be ashamed but I can’t forget
how to mourn & praise on the marimba.
I shall play till the day’s golden machinery
stops between the known & the unknown.
The place was a funeral pyre for the young
who died before knowing the thirst of man
or woman. Furies with snakes in their hair
wept. Tantalus ate pears & sipped wine
in a dream, as the eyes of a vulture
poised over Tityus’ liver. I could see
Ixion strapped to a gyrating wheel
& Sisyphus sat on his rounded stone.
I shall stand again before Proserpine
& King Pluto. When it comes to defending love,
I can make a lyre drag down the moon & stars
but it’s still hard to talk of earthly things—
ordinary men killing ordinary men,
women & children. I don’t remember
exactly what I said at the ticket office
my first visit here, but I do know it grew
ugly. The classical allusions didn’t
make it any easier. I played a tune
that worked its way into my muscles
& I knew I had to speak of what I’d seen
before the serpent drew back its head.
I saw a stall filled with human things, an endless
list of names, a hill of shoes, a room of suitcases
tagged to nowhere, eyeglasses, toothbrushes,
baby shoes, dentures, ads for holiday spas,
& a wide roll of thick cloth woven of living hair.
If I never possessed these reed flutes
& drums, if my shadow stops kissing me
because of what I have witnessed,
I shall holler to you through my bones,
I promise you.
Another from this week's New Yorker.
It was a very warm Saturday and Daniel had plans to go to a farewell party for a friend from high school whose family is moving to Australia, so after dropping him off there, the rest of us headed up River Road from Bethesda toward Poolesville, since Montgomery County is celebrating Heritage Days. We went to Riley's Lock at the Seneca Aqueduct, where we hiked a bit along the remains of the canal and saw lots of wildlife, the stopped at Poole's General Store -- the oldest continuously operating such store in the county -- for drinks before going to visit the Seneca Schoolhouse Museum, a one-room sandstone building restored to its 1865 appearance, with wooden desks with inkwells and a working potbellied stove in the center of the school.
...and a huge snapping turtle...
...and, in a nearby tree, a skink...
...and a butterfly.
There were several types of turtles, including red-eared sliders.
And several types of butterflies and moths, plus dragonflies, damselflies, and plenty of buzzing insects.
This is the restored Seneca Schoolhouse, where local students take field trips to learn what classes were like 150 years ago.
Guess who got to wear the dunce cap?
Daniel is going to be working over the summer with vertigo66's husband on an engineering design for his culminating research project, so after we retrieved Daniel from the party (his girlfriend apparently liked her birthday present), we went over to their house, where they fed us pizza and hummus and salad and dessert and showed us their new treehouse and the latest improvements to the machine shop where son and vertigo66's husband will be working. Another friend from high school was there too with her dog, and the kids compared notes on the iTouch vs. laptop, so it was a very nice evening!