Tantalus (a poem)


Gods were cruel; you tried to bow
And knew then what the limits are:
Has anyone an inkling now?

In songs of down the years, lacking words
Night inside, in every shade
Seeped into the journey’s weather;

Shore the daytime’s island up,
But centuries of thoughts will fade:
As dark seduces callow clay

The cup of oil tricks feathers;
Stricken birds will wait for day,
Drifting towards a Lydian shore

Of atavists that tear the leather
Lately wound around your wrists
And scry the flight of birds of prey.

My song calls on jackals to disperse
Around the run-down chandeliers;
Raptors find your sandals in the sheaves

And tear a thong to shreds of signs
No better, or more cursed
Than songs, or birds, had been

When legions were enthusiasts of war.
Blood quits the current for the beach
In eddies of the same lament

That Tantalus had once discerned:
An end still out of reach,
Diplomacy unlearned.

I wake Tantalus from dreaming
Of inscrutable captors
To sit silent, stupid-seeming

In his keep of sprouting sods
Where words have gained, at most, the lilt
That captivates these new-born leaves;

At least, a parity with air
Once exhaled to keep a child
From care, in his futile quilt

Of civility, unaware
Of thieves that smile
And gods that bend the branch to make the snare.



Filed under Poems

12 responses to “Tantalus (a poem)

  1. This is a kind of experiment … it’s a poem that’s supposed to be in three-line stanzas, but I can’t get the line breaks between stanzas.

    Can someone tell me how please? 🙂

  2. jaimeatdnmyt

    Hmm, you might have to go into html to do that. I haven’t looked at the wordpress blog preferences very closely (at all, really) but there may be a feature for that. What I used to do at MyT is put in soft returns between the lines of the stanza and a hard return between stanzas. You might have to do that in the original text file. Soft return key strokes being Shift+Return.

    Very nice poem, by the way, and it would be better served in stanzas. You really are talented with words.

  3. Thanks very much, Jaime … coming from you, that’s a good compliment. 🙂 I think it really needs to be in the stanzas, as you say – otherwise it’s a big turgid lump. I had a quick look last night for ways of doing it, but came up short.

  4. jaimeatdnmyt

    Try the hard return/ soft return thingie. I always had to do a lot of fussing on the MyT site.

  5. Jaime, I finally managed it as you suggested. I hope it reads better now.

    Thanks. 🙂

  6. claire2

    Beautiful, Brendano.

  7. Thanks very much, Claire … glad you like it.

  8. Marya

    Hello Brendano … congratulations on the new web-site 🙂

    A tantalising poem .. I think I understand it – then on re-reading I see a different perspective .. I like it very much.

  9. Hi Marya … you are extremely welcome to this blog. 🙂

    I’m really glad you like it. It’s been a while since I wrote it.

    I think it’s a ‘things fall apart’ sort of idea … human impotence and ephemerality in the face of entropy and trickster gods, and our limits, acknowledged or not … that sort of thing. But it’s not meant to pessimistic … we’re as good as everything else, and part of life like everything else. The thing is to make the most of it, and go with the flow, I suppose.

  10. Marya

    Thank you very much.
    Yes, the thing about life is that we must live it according to our conscience, our heart and our soul …

  11. Definitely, Marya. I’m sure that’s precisely what you do.

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