Brian Culhane

Arête | Eurydice
May 12, 2013 Culhane Brian

Arête

1. A sharp mountain ridge 2. Excellence, valor, virtue

 

The Hemingway who wrote three stories in a crummy hotel
Is my kind of hero, squatting in litter of butts and shot glasses,
Perspiring mightily through the Madrid nights, sleeping
In sodden triumph on the scattered drafts worth keeping
For the train to Paris where, sober in the mountain passes,
He hears a steward announce morning coffee with a brass bell,

As he strikes phrases with practiced flick, keen to make plain
What ought to be told in American; and then sitting back
Alone, happy, happy with himself and his art and the sun
Coming up after such a night and the foul taxi to the station
And the lost ticket, running, running along a steaming track,
Shouting, Arrêtez you bastards! Stop the goddamn train!

 

 

Eurydice

 

Their legend is a look in the eyes of the one
Who stops and has to look back. That one.

We name him and we name her, in the story
Handed down—whose details always blur.

There’s something so appealing in his need.
The human desire to turn, if just once,

To see if the beloved comes. Making certain,
Just once, that the slurred footsteps are hers.

There is something so natural in his look back.
It reminds me of how, in turning to gaze

At a maple blazing with reds last October,
My eyes lost it in the split-second after,

As I turned back to the curving road ahead.
The present like a cold wheel in my hands.

Brian Culhane’s poetry has appeared widely in such journals as the New Republic, the Hudson Review, and the Paris Review.  Awarded the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson Prize, his first book, The King’s Question, was published by Graywolf Press. His most recent work appears in Southwest Review, Parnassus, and ​Sewanee Review.