Autumn on Pluto

Charon has set
     below the Plutonian horizon.
Beneath the dimmer satellites,
     desolate Nix and even dimmer Hydra,[1]
an autumn tree of volcanic glass
     glints like a spiderweb, leaf-cups
athirst for lunar light, weak beams
    more doubt than promise,
orbs almost black in total blackness,
real only in those eye-blinks
when they occlude some distant star.

Blue-black obsidian limbs
     cascade to branchlets,
death-willow leaflets serrated and thin,
     not falling (as there is no wind
        here ever) but flung
with crossbow efficiency,
     a flight of tri-lobed arrows
sharper than surgical knives.

The only red of this world’s autumn
     is blood-flow as deer
(the stock and store of Hades)
     collapse in agony,
and silicon roots thrust funnel
    and thirsty filament
to drink from the spreading rust
of severed carotids,
pierced hearts pumping,
antler and bone and hide
a-pile the slaughter-field.

After a few weeks’ wintering,
     the branchlets crackle and split
as red-berry buds form perfect spheres,
Pluto’s cornelian cherries,[2]
untouched, inedible
amid the bone and gemstone clutter
      of dead Arcady.

Not far from Acheron’s turgid flow
(nitrous ice in a methane river),
dread Hades dreams of venison,
afloat in sauce of cornelian cherry.
Persephone wipes clean
     his fevered brow, proffers
a bowl of wheat-porridge
     and raisins, the flesh
of olive and apricot. He sighs.
She can only make
     what her mother Ceres taught her.
The juice of venison has never
     run down her chin, nor has
she savored the sourest of cherries
drowned in bee-honey.

He must count the days
     till her vernal journey upward,
till he can pluck the victims
from beneath the kill-deer willow,
fill baskets with precious cornel fruit,
then call forth poets and heroes,
     (Hephaestus and Mars as well
     if he’s in a generous spirit)
for a bone-gnaw feast
around the lava pit,
a bard- and-boast orgy
of odes and war-talk.

It goes on for weeks, and
although the words they speak
are apt to freeze between one’s mouth
and the receiving ear,
for the summer-widower Hades,
death is a bowl of cherries.

[1] Nix and Hydra were discovered by the Hubble telescope in 2005.
[2] Although consecrated to Apollo, the cornelian cherry tree was believed to be the food of the dead in Hades.


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