“Alexandrine for Orpheus” by Helen Jenks

If there were yet, O Muse, a greater myth than thee,
Then what reason would we, the poets, have to write,
To sing? To praise the verséd glory of your name––
Sweet tongue, embalmed in honeyed words so cruel and fair,
And nimble hands, so tender with the tortoise lyre;
What else could we, the poets, ever hope to be
But trapped like she in tragedy’s unforgott’n hold,
Eurydice! Does not enchanting Death fatigue
Of tears, even as he weeps and fears for your
Mangled body left to rot on such a lovely
Mountaintop as the wine-soaked hills of Pangaion ––
O Tragedy, you blithe and pithy thing! Your toys
Are weary of this game, as sure as spring again
Must rise, as does the lonely sun in every sky,
And just as do the rocks and stones and pavements of
The underworld sing draft and dreamless songs of love,
Along an old and winding road. Along an old
And treach’rous road, we watch and wait with bated breath
As Fate itself beguiles Death, and lovers young
Attempt to sway the oiled heart of King Hades––
And all the rocks that line the road call out to you
O Orpheus! Turn not the sweetness of your head,
For us, O Muse, look straight ahead! Perhaps this time
You’ll get it right, but still you fail, and still we die.

Helen Jenks is a poet from Dublin, bumbling history student, and avid knitter who writes of memory and myth, among other things. Her work has been published in various journals across Ireland, the UK, and the US, and she acts as the editor of The Madrigal, an Irish poetry publication focused on work that is emotive, sincere, and familiar.

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