from Issue #3: Poetry by Fiona Yardley

Photo (CC) Nikolay Korobko @ Flickr

Photo (CC) Nikolay Korobko @ Flickr

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Asterion

Contrary to paternal expectations, he treads
gently through the broad underground spaces built to contain him. He
knows them like the tracking veins on the back of his
larger-than-normal, strong left hand —
the more dexterous of the two, four-fingered, more human — its
grimy cracked blackened nails chewed down to the
quick.

He helped to build his own prison, since
none can stand to look at him with anything other than
fear or revulsion — also, more practically, because the
corded muscles of his back and shoulders allowed the work to
go much faster. He takes solace, and refuge, in
puzzles of the mind, in the invisible tracking of geometric
proofs, and in philosophy.

There are several who trod these stone alleys, who
were surprised to encounter such a soft-spoken
bass-baritone, profundus in thought but not in the tenor of his
speech. He only roars when he is hungry, but the
echoes of those sounds of anguish are captured
and reflected, also to his father’s purpose, through
………cochlear horns
………carved by one of his uncles,
………to maintain the trepidation
………of the place amongst the
………crowding heroes and
………trembling maidens.

But when others are sent down to the sprawling maze,
built by the will of Minos using the brawn of his own
body, and his knowledge of recursion; well, he is
so starved for company and conversation that he squeezes
all possible knowledge from them before he
cracks their bones and, with the greatest reluctance, eats the
tenderer parts of their bodies.

He knows he is a monster. But he has a
set of pipes, made from hollow bones, which now and
then he plays; scant orphaned notes swim lost through the
heavy air, dank with rot and neglect, then they amplify
through the stone horns that guard the entry; and, for a while, the
teeming heroes with their lithe muscled bodies and their endless
thoughtless competition, amongst

the shrinking maidens, are struck by mournful thoughts and
wonder which musician, condemned by the king, wanders the
maze in spirit, for they regret his passing and the ending of such
beauty in the world, regret this sad and delicate music, then
curse their fear, which they have penned and call the Minotaur —
for only Asterion remembers his own
given name.

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ABOUT THE POET

Fiona Yardley is a writer living in Sydney. She has previously had work published in See See MiscellanyHermes and most recently Overland. She has just completed a thesis in English literature on the topic of ethics and unreliability in contemporary fiction. “Asterion” is part of a series of poems she is currently writing based on Grecian myth cycles, reimagining well-known stories and characters and experimenting with perspective, interiority, and motivation. Another poem in this cycle, “Eros, Thanatos: Waiting for Orpheus” was published in Issue 1 of Contrappasso.

from issue #1: Poetry by Fiona Yardley

Photograph by Dave Hosford @ Flickr

Eros. Thanatos. Waiting for Orpheus.

What is this hesitation? This cheerful face
questions his brother’s caution.
Eros touches; it is a beginning. It makes
him happy to do it, to fulfil his purpose
and spread himself thinner and thinner
though never to be less
than he is.
His touch is fleeting but haunting, the
touch of inspiration, a catalyst of people’s
creation of each other
and their finding of themselves.
He has never touched his brother.
Eros wonders
what it would be like,
to take his twin in his arms;
to enfold
him in his strong limbs, to kiss
his smooth cheek, his pursed lips,
the dark curls garlanding his brow.
His own hair shines gold in the sunlight.

They wait together, for that other
who has gone below—though the dark
one never yet touched him, laid a
finger on him, though that other
feels the shadow of the warm dark
breath—he thinks—on his ear—
They wait.
It is a barren spot, all stones,
which
seem to crowd the place.
A sense of cold wind, though it is still.
The sky is too big, too empty,
an overturned basin
spilling the emptiness of space.

Thanatos tries to sense
that groping in the dark
toward the bright flame of life
somewhere below.

He cannot make out what is happening,
what is to come. He keeps still,
close, contained within himself
while his bright brother strides about the emptiness,
his limbs long and clean.
Both have power in their touch.
Both inspire poets, differently.
One begins, the other finishes, in most stories.
They only touch in the mouths of the poets, who
need the light with the shade.
The last pure notes played by that other
before he went below

into the darkened passage
seem to echo through his dark ear.
He plays them over and over, tries to hold them,
though they lose some of their shine
with the repetition. Touch, for him, is an
ending always.

They have waited,
amid unnumbered, crowding moments.
There is no time, here.

The other—flesh and blood
and tears, now—
though he makes no noise, the salt flood
slips down his cheeks—he is blind with grief—
he is alone.
He turns to them, an echo of another turn,
gestures sadly; helpless. It is so small, so slight a shrug.
They see
the lyre at his side is stone; its strings
will sing no more.

Each brother believes the gesture
a signal to him only.

Orpheus returns to the world.
He is alone.

 © 2012 Fiona Yardley

from Contrappasso Magazine #1, August 2012

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ABOUT THE POET

Photograph by Ian Woodforth at the Contrappasso Launch, 1 August 2012

FIONA YARDLEY is a sometime writer living in Sydney’s Inner West. She has previously had work published in See See Miscellany, Hermes, and Tangent, and one of her recent poems is forthcoming in Overland. At present she is writing a thesis in English literature on ethics and aesthetics in unreliable narrative fiction, and spending far too much money on Book Depository. “Eros. Thanatos. Orpheus” is part of a series of poems she is currently writing based on Grecian myth cycles, reimagining well-known stories and characters and experimenting with perspective, interiority, and motivation. Previously she has written a collection loosely centred around weather systems and the sea.