Amsterdam Agamemnon

by Chad Davidson

While everyone slept through the silent movies of their coming
weekends, I did an impression of myself with no legs
and acted out the entire Agamemnon backward.
I must have loved Clytaemnestra as much as Aeschylus did,
because she looked just like the blond girl in first class
stumbling back to the restroom in thin, given slippers,
the gauze of bad sleep and liquor in less-than-ideal sized bottles.
The chorus was easy since they always say the same thing,
which is really the same thing as saying nothing, and everyone
around me was saying that in their own way, and isn’t that what
a chorus is really about? And, yes, there were the personal monitors
peering out from the backs of seats like the masks Indian boys
who enter jungles wear on the backs of their heads
because tigers like attacking, unwatched, from behind.
And since I was merely an impression, fallen, falling, the beginning
came quickly, like the peanuts, which I saved, and the thoughts
of each person, even the pilot’s, coalescing in the fuselage
like empty cartoon bubbles. Me? I was what the tiger,
through the gauze of hunger, sees walking always backwards
away from the jungle, back out to boats that glide backward
along the Ganges, back to Gandhi and his long walk back
to bondage: what 18th-century Scottish history professor
Alexander Tyler declared to be the origin of democracy.
And though I’d like to imagine some edenic world
of edible butterflies where pain is optional,
a place where tigers wear proudly the colorful masks
their cubs made out of paper plates and maccheroni,
simply the existence of Aeschylus and the blond girl,
who now appears much improved after yogurt, leads me
to believe otherwise. For now, the lights ding back on,
the plastic curtains rise, a hostess collects our customs
declarations for our reentry as if she were a theater manager
groping for the programs we thought we might keep.
I have nothing to declare—firmly situating me
in the chorus, enabler of Clytaemnestra—and think
of searching out the blond girl, seeing if she can see the future,
the deaths of Iphigeneia or Agamemnon. But the orange juice is gone,
and we have already begun our long descent, and in the back of the head
of the hostess who just passed by—maybe in the earliest form of sunlight
known, or in the regal whirl of her night hair—I swear I saw myself.

Chad Davidson is an assistant professor of English at the State University of West Georgia. His poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Crab Orchard Review, DoubleTake, Epoch, The Paris Review, Pequod, Poet Lore, and numerous other publications. Southern Illinois Press published his first book, Consolation Miracle in 2003.