Reverse Orpheus, reverse Eurydice, by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Reverse Orpheus

 And saw his own death happen.
 But as a mending this time, a cleaning.
 They shoved his limbs together,
 Flailed off all the blood,
 Then dimmed into the distance
 Like the dots of an ellipsis.
 The shattered boulders rebounded,
 Rolled back up their ruts.
 The sea’s sea-lathered sun
 Succumbed in the wrong direction.
 Soon the joy of Life Returned
 Returned his strange thin smile
 But it sunk into a frown
 And then the Saddest Song of All.
 This is how it started.
 He was back where he’d parted. 

Reverse Eurydice

 Damaged he fell through mountains to find her.
 Down there among some thirty-three headstones
 And countless unmarked plots: Eurydice.
 He climbed back up the cliff. Patted the earth.
 Shoveled her out. Pulled the coin from her tongue.
 Acceptance. Depression. Deal-making. Rage.
 Denied, he denied it all. She awoke
 Again all amber in an amber field
 Where she’s just been bitten by a trampled
 Snake, the poison draining from her soft long
 Tender calf back to the sacks of its source.
 She’s midway to the meadow she’s in now.
 Now she’s home. Now she’s marrying. Now she’s
 Meeting him for the first time. “Hi, my name
 Is Orpheus,” he says. Then he doesn’t. 

Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved. “Reverse Eurydice” and “Reverse Orpheus” from THE GROUND by Rowan Richard Phillips. Copyright © 2012 by Rowan Ricardo Phillips.

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Auguste Rodin, Orpheus and Eurydice, probably modeled ca. 1887, carved 1893. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 10.63.2.