In the Underworld, with Orpheus

That this passage down

through cobbled plains, past molten palace walls

of batholithic stone, and jagged chutes,

may conjure memories of monuments and surreal scenes

is not mere strange

but unaccountable; nor does it bear

resemblance to romantic picture-poems

or those grisly gothic tales

these regions have aroused. Time, laggard, lamed,

is left behind; a kind of vertigo

ensues; and recently unencumbered souls

may turn upon themselves,

like tops, like dervish dancers whirling

through the night;

at best, but incompletely informed,

a seamed connect, a tenuous touch,

as if the world they have left behind,

and will never see again or feel,

was a somehow-merely-scan of fevered flight,

fiction written, razed, rewritten, then transposed

into a twisted, barbarous tongue of sound,

a fantasy of floating landscape and a land

before existence as we know it

was even considered: a prior unevolved state,

preceding and preempting the laws

by which our universe functions

had been facilitated.

‘And if,’ as he thinks, ‘this muddied

mix of mental aberration’s a mirage’,

is it because he is really remembering

some will-of-the-wisp: some wife or friend,

an episode unfolded, now enclosed,

as multi-membraned as a fetus in its chamber;

or is he but one last brief laugh, the Metaphor,

the ad hoc madness of some seriously alienated being?

He swims in this, the long losing

and the regaining of his will: of who

he is, and the why he came;

and of its inevitable futility.