The Thracian Rider Is Doomed to Moonlight. A Poem by RW Haynes

 

Artemis of slippery rocks, O power
Of mesquite, O night, O resonant night
Of owls and tricky rapids, in this hour
Guide my faithful warhorse aright
In this crossing of this magic stream,
Where the ghosts of ancient rattlesnakes
Arise a moment from their deathly dream
To view the crossing an intruder makes.
Thus splashing splashlessly, now I ride,
Saluting the river with my brazen spear,
Across through the shallows to the western side,
To Mexico. Moonglow is strong, but sunrise is near,
And here I will abide when darkness is gone
Awaiting the impulse which will impel me on.

 
Just one game plays out at no remove
From reality, and its rules both produce
And require defiance of traps that prove
What you are. You must somehow turn loose
Of love’s numerous and bogus avatars,
Of pride’s super-subtle, invidious claims,
And all false illusions, from Hell to the stars,
As the clock steals vigor, and all the other games
Clamor for attention. But I have arrived
And crossed this river, one dragon slain
In Bulgaria, the battles I survived
Having cleared my soul of useless pain.
And now, freed from compulsion of choice,
I listen for orders from an inward voice.
 
Last night I met a perished knight at arms
Wandering feebly down the murmuring stream,
And we spoke awhile of debilitating charms
That lurk malignantly in hope and dream.
Death had relieved him of all but regret,
He smiled, his eyes unseen in the ghostly shade,
But hoarsely whispered then that to forget
He’d instantly take agony in trade,
And he reached forth to me his bony hand,
And I pronounced forthwith the living curse,
And he was gone with that crushing command
That the dead must obey and none can reverse.
And the waterfall echoes its perpetual sighs
And I stand watch here silent at moon-rise.

 
 
On the Savannah River 2013
 
 
 
R. W. Haynes has taught literature at Texas A&M International University since 1992. His recent interests include the early British sonnet, and he is completing a second book on the Texas playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote (1916-2009). In his poetry, Haynes seeks to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without sounding any more dissonant notes than he has to. In fiction, he works toward grasping that part of the past which made its mark on his generation. He enjoys teaching drama, especially the Greeks, Ibsen, and Shakespeare, and he devoutly hopes for a stunning literary Renaissance in South Texas.

 
 
 
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