Orphic Hymn (1995)
by Sarah L. M. Dorrance, Vampire/Donor Alliance

Three silver notes, moonlit agony,
falling tears from the lyre. The gravid moon.
The earth stands still, hush of pain,
long silenced in black reaches
of tumulus mound. Still stands the moon,
Orpheus knocking at the gate; and then
great mighty howl! hell awaits him.

No flowers are scattered this time,
no chariot receives him,
he walks into inner reaches
helixing. His feet are too slow.
And the road is marked with blood:
he is heavy, heavy, lead and gold
where he steps but for his tears,
soft falling rain, he belongs here in this earth,
he is of earth. The spirits pass,
they marvel at his chthonic glow
his gentian torch.

They hear a cry from beyond,
strange music, from where can it come?
It goads them. He is alone when he reaches
the boat. He has no coin, no soul.
His soul has already been paid -

so the ferryman shakes his head:
the last ferry has already been made,
and besides that, Master Orpheus, you'll sink
the boat with your lead-heavy flesh -

But the song carries them. Song
of hell, from hell, from the depths
of the heart; the lyre smiles,
drips blood offering to no one,
amoral music. No one crosses a river twice.
It's common sense: don't look back
once you've made the great leap
over the waters, alea iacta est

don't ever look back.

Following the song ever inward.
It's a labyrinth. Walls twist
in scraps of ghost. It's all brick,
all mortar, all memory and wasted life.
All that will never pulse except in here,
in the gullet, o hungry Hecate
will you never be sated? Give my soul
back to me. I cannot live without it,
I am not one of the living,
I wander lost and do not breathe -
if only I
could become whole! For these jewels
and bricks are nothing, even your magics mighty gods.
If I remained here I would not be whole -
my wound drips even now
thus give it to me, my life, I find Lethe abhorrent,
the sword which severs is my only cure -
offering of my wasted life:
sever me an exit from myself...

She hears thunder and music.
It's memory that draws her back, seduced.
Memory of a silver chord, a love undying
(o I will follow you yet, anywhere you will,
I am yours not mine) What
is death's claim, next to desire's?
Even Persephone, even Dis, can bow. They know
their own kind. Aphrodite has a home here
when she visits. The newly dead,
like gods, must answer the call of pain and prayer.
A small grace, from the gods.

the choir of voices
dead: like angels. Winged. Pain gives wings
to the dead. So slow, victory's beating wings
are slow next to despair's bronze chariot,
why can he not speed the triumphal orchestra
to his own pace? Must pain take forever?
He has courted death so long.
He searches and searches, but nowhere
does he see his soul in the twisting hall.
Only echoes of her hands on his head;
the hands of a priestess
or a deity. Dead memories. All he sees

is a dead leaf

falling slowly through winter wind.
First snowfall. Laughing flakes. The joy
of the eternal gods. He is alive,
he who has bartered his life for song
with his soul as coin; pleading,
even though his soul is long lost,
his soul that he will never hear echo
but in mirror's perversion
a joke, meant for himself

o why must I always look back?
For the soul is her own; she keeps her own mysteries,
she mocks me. I will never reach her being,
I will never own my soul.

Return to the House of Hades