Eros in September

 

S.977.21_Sarcophagus.jpgThe dotted dirt floor around Psyche’s feet pulled me into a story of another’s trials. I held the image of my love for a few seconds, and then I turned away, turned back to the stories of childhood. Even my non-human childhood held stories, for we always wanted to understand how human minds worked.

Once upon a time, a girl1415934314615_wps_9_DBHRJF_Cinderella_from_a_.jpg

came out of the closet of her room,

the broom already in hand,

the dustpan hanging like a charm, clanging

against the metal band around the smaller

straw hand broom hooked to the rough rope

serving as her belt. What does one need

to understand this picture? There were seeds spilled across the otherwise perfectly swept brick floor. As a child, I stopped my mother in the course of her reading it to me, right here, right at the picture, a double-spread bleeding across two pages, book stitches in the brickwork of the chimney. The girl with the hem of her skirt in tatters, the girl pondering the work.

I edged away from stories and books. I flew above living pictures and through open windows and never saw a girl quite like that one in the book of fairy tales. I began to imagine that no such person existed, that the story was false, that all stories are false. The book’s cover split with the changing of the seasons, and silverfish swam in the falseness of the yellowing pages.

And now I am drowning in story. I dove deep into her rescue and became the hero between the pages. Our life revealed the conflict essential to the continuance of the myth. Her journey is the pattern of a life throughout time. I must have known this when I was five or six. When I pondered that three-color picture, I didn’t know to ask: What does one need

koanga_kay_baxter_hand_seeds2To sort the seeds? What tools?

She had two brooms and a dustpan.

She had the willingness to work hard,

Good eyesight, the strong knees

And lungs of youth—and perhaps

Most important of all—the experience

Of loss rupturing innocence.

What did I know of loss until Psyche? There is a cynicism that some of us wear to hide the knowledge that we are intact. We haven’t experienced loss. We wear the badge of our completeness, obsessively self-aware like Doric columns defining the entrance to a building lacking ornamentation.

downloadThe seeds in the picture might as well have been ants or pebbles or splatters of paint. I could not distinguish what they meant as seeds, nor as anything else. Yet, when I sat on the window ledge yesterday and looked past the fading light of the day to the image of Psyche at my mother’s side, I could tell they were seeds. I even knew where they came from.

Last night, I flew from the window and walked into the forest. I found the cow parsley, growing taller than I, its weedy white heads framing a pond long since abandoned by man and animal. I rubbed one of the dead flowers in my hand and the seeds trickled across my palm.

I put the seeds into a small leather bag and continued around the pond. Over the ridge was a heath, only marked by small deer trails zigzagging along the edges and trailing from pond to the cover of deeper forest. The combined sounds of night and the singers of the night rose around me so that I could no longer hear the tips of my wings raking against the heather. When I crossed the heath, the seeds clung to my feathers. I brushed some into the bag and left the rest to fall on their own.contorted-hazel

Near the road leading into the town of Psyche’s abandonment, a hazel tree grew in its crooked way, dusty and beckoning near a ditch. That long ago storybook girl knelt at a tree like this, a tree like this her mother was buried under. Doves dipped their wings beside the blossoms and held on tight to the tiny branches. Fallen flower petals dotted the grass beneath the tree, a picture not unlike that of the seeds on the hearth. There is a way of looking at things, of listening to the souls of those who set them in motion that alters our perspective.

Perhaps our lives are abandoned

To the tools that echo our presence

Into being. What did she have at birth?

A voice. A hunger. An ability to fill

And evacuate. A sense of the tunneling

Of another’s life through her own.

Was it the contrast of life before and after her mother that held me to that story? The story that held onto me. And so many others that may be holding you . . . motherless children–the girl with ebony hair and white skin, the girl spinning straw in the prince’s basement, the boy escaping in his raft to the Mississippi River, the boy with the lightning scar on his forehead, the child in the cinders and the boy from Tintagel and the girl wandering to Carter Hall, the girl traded for the theft of a rose.

imagesWhere am I in these stories, and where is Psyche? Where are you? How will I know which story to continue to hold onto? I sort the versions and note their similarities. I have come to the road that leads me to those who gave her to me, though they didn’t know they were doing so. What do we give ourselves to when we have been abandoned, when we abandon the first draft of our lives?

Would I even think these stories odd if I also had no mother?

Taking care not to trample the hazel blossoms, I left the road and continued across the grass. My wings ached to fly. My body remembered the earthly attraction of tender clover under my feet, the perfume of a grasshopper’s wings at knee level, the sudden rustle of rabbits and lizards at my approach.

eyedolecense4I jumped over a small tree felled by the last storm, and the leather bag fell to the ground, the seeds spilled out in a pile. A breeze swept them up and swirled them into a miniature tornado that lingered beside me and waited somehow for me to interpret it.

Once upon a time, a girl was born or you were. You flooded the world with the question of yourself, your toes even curled into the mark of your coming, the entrance the end of a sentence your parents began.

Your fingers met your toes and said hello. The girl played in the creek behind the house and caught minnows in her cupped hands and let them go. You played with moon, who spoke to you with its shadows and light when you lay in the grass of your front lawn or the bedroom of your childhood.

I spoke what I felt and didn’t know what that meant. The girl laughed at her mother’s jokes. You smiled when you caught the red ball. She cried when no one understood, not even those closest to her. I wanted to break free. You stayed out after curfew because you couldn’t stop kissing the lips of the one who was reshaping your world.grimm_pic1

You left home. You came back. You left home. Others left you. The girl spoke her last words to the woman of the doves, the last words the woman would hear. I wanted something that I couldn’t imagine. The girl lost her father who still slept ten feet down the hall. You did the work that found you.

I have never done the work that is mine. I am just beginning. The girl had to hack dreams out of rodents and barn wood to escape. She will never escape what her body remembers. You will never escape what your past became, even from that moment when your thumb was saying hello to your toes.

Separate the stories from the life and . . . I dare you . . . separate the stories from the life. I had a love affair with the end of days, and that was where I went wrong. You are reclaiming that root wrapped around the seed, around the rock, around the bit of glass, around the skeleton of the mole because you are seeing the parts, and you are seeing . . . the parts.

The girl wore only one pair of shoes for the rest of her life—orange house slippers, worn, warm, molded to her feet as sure as magic.

–Shaun Perkins

 

$1.00 a Song

andy

Andy Bartosovsky

During my POEM LIFE show, there will be a segment (a crime) where I offer up a series of poems that are reinterpretations of the Psyche and Eros myth. One of the poems in the cycle is called “The Return,” and in the show, it is the last one. I have two versions of this poem, one I wrote as a regular poem, the other with the thought in mind that it could be a song.

Both the poem and the song are featured in the show; however, I’m not a songwriter, singer or musician, so I managed to find someone who put it to music for me and sang it. That would be Andy Bartosovsky, a friend of a friend from Facebook who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. (Social media is truly good for many things.)

You can listen to the song at his website, and please send a little payment his way.

Thanks, Andy! The poem is perfect for Poem Life, and I look forward to playing it for an audience.

–Shaun Perkins

 

How it Began

janerussellMy Poem Life show will include a section that tells the story of Psyche and Eros with poetry and audience interaction and stuff. Psyche is sacrificed to the beast because . . . well, that’s just what people used to do (still do). She was one of the beautiful young girls of the village so obviously was selected. She was decorated and put into a cart and taken to the top of the mountain to await the beast.

How it Began

It could happen any day
To anyone—finding one’s self
At the top of a mountain
Awaiting the thing you dream of
Yet can’t imagine.

I had not been taught to imagine
So I went trusting my father,
Trusting the townsfolk parading
Around me. In celebration,
We climbed the mountain.

I want to say this to you now,
Now that I have come through:
As I was carried up, I noticed
A mole near my ankle bone,
And a black hair spiraled from it.

Please come to the show! More details here. Oh, and that Jane Russell photo from The Outlaw . . . yea, there’s a poem about her and it in the show, too.

–Shaun Perkins

 

In February, which is coming

eros-e1354571794589When I remember that I am the god of love, I am not surprised by how my body responds to beauty. I am not surprised that the love I feel came to me unaware, something outside the reach of my conscience, beyond the intricate workings of the cerebellum bumping against the medulla bumping against the midbrain. And yet in that jungle, the sensory cortex lives on top, near the crown, the place where I am reworked each moment by the way the world picks up its corner and shakes cobwebs and magic into my path.

A poet who wrote more of death than of love (although loving was always a part of the passing) spoke of birches being bent by ice storms, when really what he wanted to talk about, what he

. . . was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself . . .

Truth with its brain diagram flashing in my mind wants me to know why I love and why I feel and do what I do, why I can’t leave Psyche to her path, why I want to chase after her and why I continually hover on the edge of the picture frame she fills with each task that takes her farther from me.

Or is it closer?

Toward the end of the poem, the poet says,

May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

Yes. Yes, I believe that. I who can fly with abandon know that earth is where Psyche will live with me. Bone to body to bone. Bone of our bodies to bone of the earth. That never changes. Heart and soul and body, the very nature of our breathing, the fire that burns inside us or refuses to rise from ashes: all of these things change with time and growth. Not bone to bone. Psyche, you know that I am here. You know where you will find me when you have found yourself.

Earth is the right place for love.

Can you hear me whispering that to you? Would this help you stay on your path?

My questions fade with the day. Days spin their fabric into new clothes unfamiliar and fitting. Whatever I wear does not change the fact that I feel.

Blood will not relent or back down or fade into apparition. It forever returns me to myself as . . .

In the greeting card aisle every February, strange mutations of me exist in red and pink. I am coupled with roses and endearments and gilt lettering. Gold-lined envelopes compete with the fluorescent lights above. This is the path that others have chosen for me. A fledgling hip hop singer in a Britney Spears perfume ad where she is Psyche. The matchmaker with the physique of a Chippendale’s dancer in porn videos.

Choose your own image, Psyche. Or better yet, choose to know what breathes behind the image.

This evening as I sat on the windowsill gazing at nothing and everything that earth astounds me with, I felt your thoughts turn to me. I have been living with poetry, and so have you. Your words open me more than I thought possible. You have given your life to a promise again.

When I return to you, I will whisper
What I dreamed on the road
Into your ear, smooth down your wings
With the tips of my fingers and lie
In the warm curve of your body
Like a question mark followed
By parenthesis. I do not know
If I will survive, yet if I do,
I intend to retain everything,
To share it with you, to come to
The end of my dreams and to open my eyes.

This time, Psyche, when you open your eyes, I will be there in the glory of whatever light we make. I will be there, and we will know each other for the time that is to come. Stay on your path and know.

–Eros

(Shaun Perkins)

Merlin at Lessons

merlin-and-arthurHe rarely listened to what I taught
but that is the way. A true teacher learns
early that insisting the student listen
is the surest way to uninsure it.
I would be deep into Lao Tze’s treatise
on warfare, and he would be drawing crude
pictures of what he imagined women dreamt he
might do to them. Fart jokes besides Poetics,
impromptu themes justifying the ways of God
to amoeba in terms only amoeba would understand. Continue reading