Speaking In Tongues
Scribbling In Voices

Tatiana Retivova



I’ve kept it high and dry, beyond repair,
a broken driftwood carving on the shelf
untuned and overwrought as is my self,
covered with lacerations, wear and tear.
My muse is gone, and with him goes my voice
buried beneath the sinking city’s arcs,
it climbs the mildewed walls along St. Mark’s,
shrieking «hic sepultus...» It has no choice
but let its chords entwine with weeping vine
and like the seven strings of a guitar
emit, de profundis, a plaintive bar
until it is less vocal than divine.
The river Styx is where I’d like to be,
swimming upstream against this you-ward pull
toward some Orphic idyll in which you’ll
metamorphose to be — Euridyce,
while I, swift-footed Hermes by your side,
would guide you firmly through the asphodels,
bending your ear with winged words and spells,
keep you from hearkening, the breathless bride.
Ensconced in Orphic garments she would not
repeat the warning trembling on her lips.
Recite instead the catalogue of ships.
See how Charon emerges from the grot...
Or else, like some Alcestis on her throne,
I would aspire to give up my lyre,
(untuned though it may be and now unstrung)
give up my heart, my restive name undone,
no longer marking time to my own rhyme.
Survivor’s guilt perhaps, I’d give you life.
Return you to the manger where your wife
and child remain bewildered and inclined
to weave and then unweave what for a song
has become history, legend and myth.
Let the more loving one be me, Iosif.
Here’s one more for the road, and then anon.