Orpheus at the River

by Thomas Rabbitt

All these years and still his brain will recoil,
As mute thought rebels, against the edict:
A poet found wandering the high roads
Shall be stripped of lute and pen and the name
Of the unspeakable god shall be tattooed
Across his breast. Thenceforth the snake he wore
Flicked at one small nipple a tongue like teeth.
He was beheaded, his body left nude,
Skinned nearly raw, simulacrum removed,
Mere blackened meat to feed the Thracian crows.
Legless drunk all these centuries of turmoil,
Like flotsam his head tossed from whore to whore,
He loses in this game all sense of who
She was and why he sang for her before
The darkness and the thoughtful silence came.

                                                            —from Prepositional Heaven (River City, 2001)

The author of several books of poems—including Exile (1975), The Booth Interstate (1981), The Abandoned Country (1988), Enemies of the State  (2000), and Prepositional Heaven (2001) — Thomas Rabbitt has retired from his teaching career and currently lives and writes in Tennessee.  In 1972, he founded the MFA program in creative writing at The University of Alabama.  In Fall 2004 NewSouth Books will release American Wake: New & Selected Poems.

selected by Dan Albergotti