Burnt Offering

Anakreon, to Harmodius:
About that letter, the fervent one,
the one you hinted you’d sell when I die,
mocking its shaking autograph,
intimating the scandal --
I know your threat is false.
last night in my sleep I saw
your hands on a crumpled scroll,
the thrust toward a sputtering lamp,
the tiny screams as my words,
my awesome and unrepeatable vows,
my praise of your unworthy beauty,
collapsed and withered in a blue-green flame.
You brushed the ashes from your gentle arms --
they scattered, mingled with dust motes,
rode a moonbeam in a moment’s leap
toward ghosthood, then dissipated.
Only one moth, before its suicide,
dipped in the ash and shared
one final taste of my missive.
No Phoenix rose, the earth
did not open to swallow you,
and your disdainful triumph
did not diminish the cosmos.

Yet he who burns love letters
offends the Gods.
You dare undo my holy madness
with your little hecatomb
of paraffin and oil?
They will come back to sting you,
my salamander syllables.
Try and love anyone now! Your sunken cheeks
and pale complexion will drive all away.
All will know you are pursued and haunted.
You will wish you had kept the living scroll
when you see how Love, an ash-faced Fury,
comes back from Acheron,
a broom hag to drive
your suitors off,

nightmare’s bedmate, engendering
alarming sores and bruises,
leaving you spent and exhausted
as though a nest of incubi
used you for practice.

I kept a copy.


  1. Wonderful poem, Brett! And the ending is perfect!


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