Issue 228, Spring 2019
(fifty days at iliam: shield of achilles)
a mythology begins with a question like who are we, where are we, what is red, why paint, why me, lord, why? a person who knows all the answers can only borrow a mythology like i’m king midas or i’m god. a painter can take a mythology and remake it so that it answers a new question like romare bearden asking odysseus who are my we? and cy twombly asking akilles why are we still you? painting the i of the storm on a shield. cutting the trickster out of black and blue paper and lashing him with glue to the mast of his last ship. the journey always rough, some miserable god under land under sea always looking for company, people always succumbing. the hero is the one who comes home, even if it’s by process of elimination. a playwright can make a mythology ask what’s wrong with this song? like suzan-lori parks asking ulysses about coming home from the war so why are you a hero and why are you still coming home from a war and women die in wars, too, even if it’s not the expected death and—wait that’s not a question but it’s still a mythology if that’s the only thing she knows for sure.
(quattro stagioni: primavera, estate, autunno, inverno)
a mythology can ask why is autumn so beautiful and why is winter, blight-stricken as it is, so arresting? a mythology, as opposed to a young person, can find autumn and winter much more striking than summer, sun-bleached summer, so legibly the scene of happiness that nothing else can really happen there. a mythology can see the blood in spring, the stages of growth a kind of violence the body does to itself, it will never be this way again yet it can’t get on to the next moment fast enough. a mythology can ask why does spring throw its arms out with abandon even when it’s abandoning itself? a mythology can ask why is winter so much greener than spring, even clouded in white? the icicles trail as far down the evergreens as they can, but don’t keep the wind from brushing snow and sun across the mountain on the same day. the inferno is always burning, women and men going up in flames. a poet can ask why do daughters grow up by going down? like rita dove asking persephone you think he’s hot? all the while, autumn is answering the question about gorgeous rotting. just magenta, green, brown, pink, yellow, red, violet flying off the mythological canvas.