When Orpheus gets back to earth
his rescue mission an abject failure,
he flogs himself bitterly for that one wrong turn.
Eurydice is back in the hot arms of Hades
and he is pathetic as a raisin, all the juice wrung out,
his parade of wailing animals bringing up the rear.
Back at the condo, he has nothing for comfort
but his old lyre, growing frumpish and dingy from disuse.
The wood nymphs come ringing his doorbell,
beseeching him to serenade them with vicarious love,
that golden tongue of the good old days.
But he hasn't got it in him and soon
they give up and drift away.
Eventually, however, and for want of anything better to do
he picks up the neglected instrument, listlessly begins to finger
the strings and as he does, he remembers how he'd play Eurydice
sometimes pull her hair back, pluck at the harp of her
the notes she would make forming a sweet Oh.
As in Oh, the openings to all things delicious
Oh, the berries and melons of her flesh
Oh, the way she'd rise and fall to his touch,
and even just plain Oh.
And as his fingers remember, the notes come trickling out
like honey from honeycomb, and the forest catches its breath.
The animals and the wood nymphs draw near
and soon he's got his groupies again
like Eurydice back in the days of the smoky blues bars.
He concludes the gods have given him a gift indeed
counts his blessings: how they could have grown bored
with each other, fallen out of love
and there she'd be -- like an empty cereal box
but not as easy to dispose of.
Instead, she is beautifully dead and he is free.
Free of the tarnish and clutter, the dank and musty corners
free to clean house and remember them together,
brimming and spotless, free
to start over, basically just plain free.
Something in his rusty loins begins to hum.
He looks up to see a woman smiling.
- Nina Corwin
Text published originally in Nimrod, spring/summer 2004 issue
from the University of Tulsa.