Labyrinth (Lear)

A poorly timed abdication. A madness

descending more inevitably

than my footfall on the rolling paths of this post-war development

 

a stranger would need a map to navigate.

In a book on loneliness,

a political scientist proposes that our great modern woe

 

was first ushered in by Lear & Cordelia: something about the broken

route between the heart & the tongue.

The first maze was not built

 

for the minotaur but rather for the sacred bodies of Egyptian Kings.

 

Herodotus assures us its 3,000 chambers surpassed in scale any temple

he had seen in Greece;

it was in its achievement greater even

 

than the pyramids themselves.

Constructed 4,000 years ago, inside it now,

no one could disappear, even if that was what she wanted,

which feels to me—

for the moment at least—just fine,

for this is as lonely as I want to be:

 

all the little brick ranch houses & cul de sacs in evening beginning

to look more & more the same.

Sometimes I can hardly trust

 

that the weight of your heavy leg thrown over my body in the night

is reliable, real.

The first time I slept naked beside a man I was fifteen.

 

He was twenty-one. I think now he must have thought he loved me,

for he did not touch me in any way

I would not then have been able

 

to understand.

Last winter, snowed in & grasping loose threads,

I discovered—by way of a digitally archived obituary of his mother—

 

that he had changed his name & moved to White Fish, Montana.

 

O, tiny sovereignty.

Later, I will drive to your house & we will

hold each other in our late middle age as we watch

 

another day’s terrible news being reported—

a gun, a knife, a truck,

an explosion, the words border & wall repeating.  

My ear, your chest,

 

our fingers bearing the meager, sufficient, insufficient stone

of an apocalyptic tenderness,

as barrel bombs drop on a town already rubble.

 

 

Kathleen Graber teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker and the American Poetry Review, among other publications She was the winner  of a 2017 Arts and Letters Award in Literature, American Academy of Arts and Letters

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