When Orpheus returned from underground
all he could sing was shadows,
and his eyes were full of ghosts.
When Orpheus returned from shadows
the feast was in tatters
and his lyre had come unstrung.
When Orpheus returned, we had
already forgotten Persephone, Demeter,
and were panting for his song.
When Orpheus returned from the depths
his fingers were broken
and all he could sing was shadows.
Card mailed to Sam Nov. 20, 2004
This poem was inspired by the picture on its front, of James Dean coming up from a theater door. The picture is a high-contrast black-and-white. You see Dean in high relief. You see the shadow of the stairs he's walking up. You see a bright "Exit" sign behind him.
For some reason, seeing this image of James Dean coming, as it were, from the underground led me to think of the myth of Orpheus. I'll confess that, like most, what little I know of this myth comes by way of Ovid. Some more details were filled in by Neil Gaiman in his Sandman series (see "Orpheus" in the Fables and Reflections collection), which influence this present work.