inertia1

Elektra

That's the thing about a dance. It isn't tragic.
Each step might have been otherwise.

Paris turns to wisdom,
The grey-eyed goddess, the skeptical one,

And Agamemnon is spared his wife's
Betrayal, Elektra remains the handmaiden

Of her father's old age, then marries, taking
Whatever men suit her, since one fidelity's

Enough. Paris turns to Hera, and power
Ricochets like an arrow through Argos,

The Greeks fall before Troy's
Empire. Perhaps she is Cassandra's handmaiden

Then. Perhaps she is brought to the prince's bed.
And dances before he sleeps, before

Slipping out to the lover who will slaughter
Him. Perhaps she has a daughter.




A Brief History of Ideas, The Farm, 1974

The guy who owned the commune
Had private money, a Land Rover
To plow the driveway, and a harpsichord
In the barn. He taught his weekly
Seminar on Plato in the library, and I
Sat, drowsy, in one of the most comfortable
Armchairs ever made, between consciousness
And dream, between the squat Greek Loebs
And Krafft-Ebbing, listening to the talk
Of oak and stone, the one and the many,
Wondering what I was doing there.
He believed in the One, and so did I,
But in my case the one was a woman
Twelve hours and how many inches of snow
Away in Maine. I was trying to hold onto her
With poems, but Robert Lowell was proving
An unreliable guide in these matters, and Plato
Of course, distrusted the whole enterprise.
What I needed was gas money or someone
To say "you only get so far with books,"
But neither charity nor action were considered good
Form on the farm. The night I did my term
Report on The Apology ("not accepted"
Was the verdict, "insincere"),
I found, stuffed deep on the shelf between a folio
Of erotic art and the intimidating black spines
Of Jung, a paperback, Graves' White Goddess,
With someone else's illegible notes.
Maybe my mind's not as wrong as I thought,
I thought, when I read that line he quoted: poetry
Is the question of what remains
Of the beloved.
Later I walked
Into the bathroom where my friend was shaving,
Index cards of irregular Greek verbs propped
On the shelf below the mirror. "Mike,"
I said, "how do you make beauty out of …"
And it was just then that he drew blood.



The newest collections from Jordan Smith are For Appearances which was the recipient of the first Tampa Review Prize in Poetry, and Three Grange Halls, a co-winner of the Swan Scythe Press chapbook award. Pudding House Press has just issued his Greatest Hits. He teaches at Union College.