Oenone at the Cafe Deux Magots

You want to know why I hanged myself,
Threw myself from the walls of Troy,
Or climbed aboard the pyre and burned?
And you want to know why no one
Remembers which of these deaths
I preferred? I always blamed Helen
For everything, but Philoctetes
Shot four arrows and ruined Paris,
Piercing bow-hand, eye, and ankle,
And still raw with jealousy
I refused to drug him back to health,
Relenting only as he died.
Centuries have flickered like shadows
And I’m still walking the streets
In hopes of finding Paris restored
With a fresh young face and new line
Of patter. What’s the point of hanging,
Burning, or falling from a height
If we couldn’t reincarnate
Together? The city named for him
Especially hurts me, lovers
Tucked in every stony corner
And that blasphemous cathedral
Gonging. Three thousand years wasted,
His atoms probably so scattered
Not even the theories of Einstein
Can account for them. Another
Pernod, please, water on the side.
You think you can buy me by bleeding
This archaic story from me,
But nymphs are simple: a drink,
An under-the-table caress,
And I’m as yours as I’ll ever be.
Look at the tourists looking at us.
Some can see right through me,
While others see only the flesh.
What do you see? A rope burn,
Blackened or shattered bone? Your room
Has a private bath? That’s good—
I don’t want to be alone tonight,
the sky bleak with the smoke of his pyre
and the lamplight as brutal
as the flash of his one dying eye.

William Doreski

 

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has published three critical studies. His poetry has appeared in many journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His new poetry collection is A Black River, A Dark Fall (Splash of Red, 2017).