What Lot’s wife would have said (if she wasn’t a pillar of salt)
Do you remember when we met
in Gomorrah? When you were still beardless,
and I would oil my hair in the lamp light before seeing
you, when we were young, and blushed with youth
like bruised fruit. Did we care then
what our neighbors did
in the dark?
When our first daughter was born
on the River Jordan, when our second
cracked her pink head from my body
like a promise, did we worry
what our friends might be
doing with their tongues?
What new crevices they found
to lick love into or strange flesh
to push pleasure from, when we
called them Sodomites then,
all we meant by it
When the angels told us to run
from the city, I went with you,
but even the angels knew
that women always look back.
Let me describe for you, Lot,
what your city looked like burning
since you never turned around to see it.
Sulfur ran its sticky fingers over the skin
of our countrymen. It smelled like burning hair
and rancid eggs. I watched as our friends pulled
chunks of brimstone from their faces. Is any form
of loving this indecent?
Cover your eyes tight,
husband, until you see stars, convince
yourself you are looking at Heaven.
Because any man weak enough to hide his eyes while his neighbors
are punished for the way they love deserves a vengeful god.
I would say these things to you now, Lot,
but an ocean has dried itself on my tongue.
So instead I will stand here, while my body blows itself
grain by grain back over the Land of Canaan.
I will stand here
and I will watch you
– Karen Finneyfrock
Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering
any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
– Dorianne Laux
ART BY GARY BONNER*
Narcissus by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, circa 1597-1599
“The story of Narcissus in Greek mythology begins with the story of Echo. Echo was a beautiful nymph who lived in the woods and often accompanied the goddess Artemis on her chase for deer and other wildlife. Echo’s shortfall was that she loved to talk and one day when goddess Hera was looking for her husband in the woods, Echo tried to stall her by continually speaking with her. When Hera found out that Echo was successful in making sure that Hera didn’t catch her husband amusing himself with the other nymphs in the woods, Hera placed a curse on Echo. This curse did not allow Echo to say anything except to repeat what she had heard.
Echo was in the woods one day when she saw Narcissus and immediately felt how much she loved him. Narcissus heard her but could not see her and when he asked, “Who’s here?” all Echo could reply was “here.” Coming out so Narcissus could see her and return her love, she was shocked when Narcissus rejected her. She fled into the mountains, scorned by him. Narcissus was quite famous for rejecting the many nymphs that wanted to show him love. He was a beautiful young man and had been since he was just a child.
Narcissus was walking in the woods one day when he came by a pond that had water so clear it could have been crystal. The water was free of debris and no one ever came by to disturb the peaceful waters. Narcissus bent down to take a drink from the beautiful pond and saw his own reflection looking back at him. He instantly became mesmerized by it and sat for some time staring into his own beautiful face. He continually tried to reach down and embrace the image that he saw in the water, and he also tried to bend down and kiss the image. As soon as he touched it however, it fled from him. Narcissus became happy just to be able to stare at the beautiful creature and he forgot of all need for food and drink as he sat beside the pond, staring at his own reflection.
Narcissus pined away by the side of the pond and eventually died there. When the elders had prepared a funeral for him and went to gather the body however, it could not be found. But in the exact same place that Narcissus had sat for all that time, grew a beautiful flower that we know today as Narcissus.”
Several adaptions of the myth have survived, another classic version states that Narcissus, so enamoured with his reflection, drowns as he tries to get himself a drink of water. Which is the version most matching the depiction by Caravaggio above, if one notices Narcissus’ hand cupping the water before he is distracted by his image. Signature Caravaggio light play, the scene captured right before the action, as is his preferred style. Excellent shadow play to emphasise the conceited world of Narcissus – himself.