Orpheus in the Overworld

by Jennifer Crow

I played, for worlds beyond the earth I dreamed,
played them through the spheres, played
a thousand rivers of forgotten song.
They took her to lure me, promised freedom
from their metal dreams, the shadow
of lives between worlds, on the dark ocean
of the night. They took her, drew her form
in the air, a ghost of light that winked out
when I touched her cheek. I played
for the memory of an embrace, for summers
on the high hills, for winters beside a fire.
I played for the sorrows in her ghost face,
all the rivers of song in me,
a sea of music, rising up to drown us all.
But no Lethe--I recall counting stars
no mortal eye had seen, ringed worlds,
drifts of ice and wings of fire.
But when they let me dream, I dreamed
of her, and cried out, and was not comforted,
and my songs wept, too, until they let us go.
Tell no one, they said, or you will lose her.
They gave me an empty amphora, a woman
drained of all that made her mine.
And when I whispered the secret, when I tried
to fill the secret hollows in her mind,
she shattered. Nothing remained to us, to me,
but a slow dying under a canvas
of ordinary stars.

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