In the early, heady days, when the performance was still fresh,
say when Athena flashed her spangling shepherd at Odysseus,
I spread my fearsome wings and led him home.
Now I dither in the rafters as the human seasons
dip and swell, the battle oozes to its finish,
a speech crackles to crescendo, or some passion
climbs its language arc to climax. I unfurl my wings, descend,
reveal myself a-sparkle on the ocean, or crimson-haunting,
smoke and charnel from the lips of distant moons.
it’s worked like this from Greek to lately. After Banquo’s murder,
did I not brandish my macabre there in the dining hall?
And don’t I always ping and fuzzle at the end of lyrics,
real to ideal and back, gleam like a flashing shield, a sudden light?
Define me or defy me now, I dare you
and your tendency to tack me on, an afterthought
for added spangle, like an old lady’s costume brooch,
forcing me to shuffle out and grin
and ham it up like some child actor. Or worse,
you who have no faith in revelation, even beauty,
claim you don’t need me, think you have your jolt built in.
And here it is again. Down below a poet tries to coax me out
with a phrase like “morose sunset.” Down below
“Ah-ha!” the playwright’s lead is forced to utter,
and the company looks up, expecting—shooting stars? A golden rain?
This can’t go on. I’ve glimpsed my fate.
If radiance is whatness, then try to what without me.