Carey Scott Wilkerson

Saving a Marriage

“My wife is the cause of my journey.”
—Orpheus upon entering the Underworld
  to retrieve Eurydice
Ovid, The Metamorphoses: Book X

Orpheus, perceives the scale of trouble
he’s inviting into his absurd life:
a desperate mission to rescue, from death
itself, a woman he knows he could love
forever, who has inspired his music,
and who waits now in terminal silence.

Strictly speaking, he’s not against silence
and, indeed, freely admits the trouble
began with his compulsion for music.
Not to mention, he has heard all his life
that women are moved by the arts and love
musicians, which certainly means the death

of virtue and, in this case, just plain death.
Orpheus feels he should at least silence
those critics who glibly claim that his love
for Eurydice caused her more trouble
than he’s worth and that she paid with her life
while he prattles on about his music.

But she is the source of that same music.
And even if he has to perform Death
Metal, it will be the show of his life,
power chords shredding darkness and silence.
If the Underworld really wants trouble,
he will bring some down in the name of love,

even as he wonders whether that love
will be enough for her, if his music
has the power to calm fear and trouble
in the heart of any who has seen death
up close or wandered so long in silence.
He can save her but never know her life

or what it means to live inside a life
transformed by the crisis of a man’s love.
For Eurydice, the days are silence;
for Orpheus, they are only music.
He will never understand her, or death.
Or the way he needs their world of trouble.

But for now, the silence and the trouble
mean less to him than music in his life.
And his best love song will be sung to death.

A Life in Art

Then they set their bloody hands on Orpheus, and gathered, like birds that spy the owl, the bird of night, wandering in the daylight, or as in the amphitheatre, on the morning of the staged events, on either side, a doomed stag, in the arena, is prey to the hounds.
—Ovid, The Metamorphoses, Book XI

The Maenads, tweaking in their paranoid
ecstasies decided they had no other choice
but to pound on Orpheus’s stately front door,
shrieking their intent to dismember him.
Lost in silent despair over a failed attempt
at rescuing his wife Eurydice from Hell,
he forgot his manners and failed again:
forgetting, this time, to invite his own dread
murderers in for cocktails, which they drank
anyway when it was all over. Some believed
Orpheus died when they ripped his limbs
from his torso. Others felt he had been crushed
when they burst into the foyer and a decorative
chandelier plunged into his face, still torqued
by love’s naïve and deferent smile. Scattering
his body parts along the freeway, in rest-stop
bathrooms and abandoned construction sites,
the Maenads rendered the night down to a stub
of quiet shame, pulled over at last, praying
for sleep enough to leave behind death’s wet fever.
And from the dark of their stolen Caddy’s trunk,
the head of Orpheus sang for them a muffled lullaby.

Carey Scott Wilkerson
writes plays, poems, and opera libretti. He is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, holds a Ph.D. in English from Georgia State University, is a core dramatist in the Reinhardt University Creative Writing MFA program, and is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Columbus State University.
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