Versecraft

"Apollinian" by Amit Majmudar

June 04, 2024 Elijah Perseus Blumov Season 6 Episode 10
"Apollinian" by Amit Majmudar
Versecraft
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Versecraft
"Apollinian" by Amit Majmudar
Jun 04, 2024 Season 6 Episode 10
Elijah Perseus Blumov

Soundtrack to this episode

Text of poem

Topics discussed in this episode:

-My sojourn in Gaul

-ITER!

-Atomic Fusion

-The contemptible STEM/Humanities divide

-Amit Majmudar!

-Sleerickets Episode 144

-Amphibrachic hexameter

-"The Birth of Tragedy" by Friedrich Nietzsche

-The Solar Cycle

-Apollo, the inverse Romantic

-Homer's Odyssey

-The myth of Daphne

-Rage or Oblivion?

-Come see David, Matthew, and Ryan JUNE 13TH and Amit JULY 11TH!!

Support the Show.

BUY VERSECRAFT MERCH HERE.

Please subscribe, rate, and review! Thanks so much for listening.

You can leave me a tip, support the podcast, or request a commission here!

TikTok: @versecraft
Send me a note at: versecraftpodcast@gmail.com

My favorite poetry podcasts for:
Sharp thoughts and cutting truths (Matthew): Sleerickets
Lovely introspection and sensitive reflection (Alice): Poetry Says
The landscape of Ohioan poetry (Jeremy): Poetry Spotlight

Supported in part by The Ohio Poetry Association
Art by David Anthony Klug

List of the most common metrical feet:
Iamb: weak-STRONG (u /)
Trochee: STRONG-weak (/ u)
Anapest: weak-weak-STRONG (u u /)
Amphibrach: weak-STRONG-weak (u / u)
Dactyl: STRONG-weak-weak (/ u u)
Cretic: STRONG-weak-STRONG (/ u /)
Pyrrhic: weak-weak (u u)
Spondee: STRONG-STRONG (/ /)

Show Notes Transcript

Soundtrack to this episode

Text of poem

Topics discussed in this episode:

-My sojourn in Gaul

-ITER!

-Atomic Fusion

-The contemptible STEM/Humanities divide

-Amit Majmudar!

-Sleerickets Episode 144

-Amphibrachic hexameter

-"The Birth of Tragedy" by Friedrich Nietzsche

-The Solar Cycle

-Apollo, the inverse Romantic

-Homer's Odyssey

-The myth of Daphne

-Rage or Oblivion?

-Come see David, Matthew, and Ryan JUNE 13TH and Amit JULY 11TH!!

Support the Show.

BUY VERSECRAFT MERCH HERE.

Please subscribe, rate, and review! Thanks so much for listening.

You can leave me a tip, support the podcast, or request a commission here!

TikTok: @versecraft
Send me a note at: versecraftpodcast@gmail.com

My favorite poetry podcasts for:
Sharp thoughts and cutting truths (Matthew): Sleerickets
Lovely introspection and sensitive reflection (Alice): Poetry Says
The landscape of Ohioan poetry (Jeremy): Poetry Spotlight

Supported in part by The Ohio Poetry Association
Art by David Anthony Klug

List of the most common metrical feet:
Iamb: weak-STRONG (u /)
Trochee: STRONG-weak (/ u)
Anapest: weak-weak-STRONG (u u /)
Amphibrach: weak-STRONG-weak (u / u)
Dactyl: STRONG-weak-weak (/ u u)
Cretic: STRONG-weak-STRONG (/ u /)
Pyrrhic: weak-weak (u u)
Spondee: STRONG-STRONG (/ /)

Versecraft 6-10: “Apollinian” by Amit Majmudar

 

Hey everyone, it’s great to be back with all of y’all. I had an incredible time in France. Laura and I saw the magnificent cathedrals of Rouen, Chartres, Reims, and Amiens, and spent some time at some of our favorite places in Paris, including the Sainte-Chappelle and the Musee D’Orsay. Later, I went down to Southern France with my friend David, where we explored Marseille, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence, and hiked the gorgeous limestone cliffs of the South coast, the Calanques, from Cassis back to Marseille. We also had the opportunity to do something that David has been dreaming about for years: namely, to visit ITER: the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. 

Funded by a partnership of countries, including the European Union, the United States, China, Russia, and others, ITER is the largest, most complex, and most expensive science experiment ever undertaken, and the most ambitious international collaboration since the creation of the International Space Station. Its goal is to build a device capable of demonstrating the viability of high energy yield from nuclear fusion. This device, called a tokamak, consists primarily of a series of huge magnets arranged toroidally, which create a ring-shaped magnetic field that will confine superheated hydrogen isotopes long enough to create a sustained fusion reaction capable of generating ten times as much heat as is put into it. In other words, a donut-shaped series of magnets will provide an environment that is hot enough, pressurized enough, and which lasts long enough to for hydrogen plasma to ignite into a miniature star, the energy of which we can profitably harness and turn into electricity. The temperature of the plasma, which can reach up to 250 million degrees Celsius, and the temperature of the electromagnet, which is cooled to negative 269 degrees Celsius, results in the largest proximal temperature differential in the known universe.  

ITER is expected to be fully operational about a decade from now. If it succeeds, it will change the world as we know it. It will open the door to fusion power, a nearly limitless source of clean energy which could permanently eliminate our need for fossil fuels and other environmentally damaging sources of energy. It could be our ticket out of a climate change apocalypse. 

This is what happens on the atomic level: hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, are heated to the point where their elemental architecture breaks down: electrons and protons detach and zip around independently, creating a subatomic soup that we call plasma, the fourth state of matter. Now normally, free-ranging protons reject proximity to one another due to the electromagnetic force: positive charges reject other positive charges. However, when plasma is made hot enough—to the tune of 250 million degrees Celsius— protons hurtle through space so rapidly that when they smash together, they get close enough to one another to bypass the electromagnetic force and activate the strong nuclear force, the strongest force in the universe, which binds subatomic particles together. The strong force fuses the protons, and the differential in mass between the new sum and its original parts releases an extraordinary amount of atomic energy as heat. It is this heat which keeps the core of the sun burning, and it is this heat which we could use to generate electricity. Unlike nuclear fission, fusion produces little to no radioactive waste, and there is no risk of a catastrophic chain reaction—as soon as heat dissipates into the air, the reaction is no longer hot enough to continue. With fusion, the tricky part is keeping the effect going, not stopping it. After all, maintaining the atmospheric conditions of the core of a star is not easy. 

In discussing the implications of ITER with David, I observed that just as the particle researchers at CERN had a statue of Shiva to represent the cosmic dance, the researchers at ITER should have a statue of Prometheus, the Titan who gives the fire of heaven to humanity. One of the most tragic and catastrophic aspects of modern education is the oppositional duality between STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—and the humanities. Though both kinds of pursuits ultimately strive to understand life and the world, very little is done to show the wondrous connections and possible cross-pollinations between the two. As a result, students often feel that they must align themselves with either one camp or the other, and we often end up with engineers who are unreflective, uncultured brutes, incapable of determining the value and proper direction of their labor, and, on the other hand, squishy-minded, sentimental poets who don’t know the first thing about the physical operations of the world they are trying to describe. 

Even worse, universities around the world have prostituted themselves to the whims of hyper-capitalism by cutting funding for the humanities to almost nothing in order to churn out a greater proportion of practical, profitable STEM diplomas. In some places it is now almost impossible, even with a hundred thousand dollar price tag, to acquire a liberal arts education worthy of the name, and almost impossible for a would-be academic of my generation to embark on a career that actually leads to comfort and stability. That such a supposedly advanced society as ours should self-barbarize itself like this, should starve its literati into oblivion, is nothing short of appalling—  and when I think of the state of literary culture in the next fifty years, I see a wasteland of ignorance and darkness. This podcast is partially an attempt to provide a little light before the gloom. 

Anyway, I brought up Prometheus because I think, as all literary people do, that one of the best ways for human beings to understand themselves is through the lens of stories. To create a fusion reactor is wondrous enough—to be reminded that in doing so we are reaching back to the dreams of our forebears, that we are writing ourselves into the annals of cosmic myth, is to better appreciate the glory of the situation, and what are we here for if not to do that? A facility like ITER should not just be a huge complex of ugly warehouses full of scientists in hardhats—those things are necessary of course, but it should also be a temple to the human spirit, with philosophers, painters, theologians and poets brushing elbows with the engineers and physicists, each with their own mutually beneficial work. Heavy duty equipment sites should share the scenery with manicured gardens, marble libraries, artist studios, and stained-glass shrines where the spirit can be refreshed and one’s mission beatified. None of this will happen, of course, both because such things are not profitable or utilitarian, and because as a society we have devolved to fetishize ugliness, but a statue would be a good start. 

If anyone would feel at home in such a humanist, renaissance environment however, it would be today’s feature, Amit Majmudar. A physician and a poet, a scientist and a novelist, he is an intellectually omnivorous man with a passion for fusing the literary and mythical with the scientific and medical. More than this, he is the rare poet who is ambitious in the old sense—not merely ambitious to advance his career, to rack up awards and publications, but ambitious to be a part of the literary conversation with prior ages, to compete with the great poets of the past, to know the canons of world culture backwards and forwards, to write new myths and reinterpret old ones. 

Born in 1979 and raised in our very own Cleveland, Ohio, Amit Majmudar received his Bachelor of Science from the University of Akron and his doctorate from Northeastern Ohio Medical University. He is currently a practicing radiologist in Westerville, Ohio. Like William Carlos Williams, Majmudar is not only a successful doctor but a tireless and successful writer who became the first Ohio Poet Laureate in 2015. He publishes so widely and frequently that it can be difficult to keep track of his bibliography. Thus far, he has released four volumes of poetry, including the Donald Justice Prize winning Heaven and Earth, a collection of essays on Indian subjects, Black Avatar, a memoir, Twin A, three novels, two children’s books, prize winning short stories, countless critical essays, retellings of the Ramayana and Mahabarata, and a verse translation of the Bhagavad Gita. In 2024 alone, he has three major new books coming out: a hybrid of prose, poetry, and drama entitled Three Metamorphoses, a collection of literary essays, The Great Game, and a collection of original mythological stories entitled The Later Adventures of Hanuman

Like Wolfgang von Goethe or Victor Hugo, Majmudar is a writer of tremendous fecundity, enthusiasm, stamina, and range, and these qualities are evident not only in the bibliography but in the language of the work itself. Majmudar freely admits that he often writes poetry as an excuse to play with sounds, and the sonic exuberance and playfulness of his verse is one of its most distinctive qualities. This exuberant playfulness can have a paradoxical effect—on the one hand, such extravagant wordplay and soundplay often suggests a high rhetorical register somewhere between Hopkins and Whitman. On the other hand, the mischievous, childlike tone which accompanies such language often serves to undercut the gravitas which typically serves as the foundation of a grand style. This ludic, swaggering manner, combined with Majmudar’s penchant for writing on mythological subjects and his chameleonic pluralism of ideology, born of what he calls “extremist polytheism,” makes him a uniquely suitable bard for our ironic, globalist age. 

In the latest issue of 32 Poems, Majmudar has two poems, both of which are not only excellent specimens of his style but which are particularly germane to the themes we have discussed thus far. One of them is a deliciously cathartic and vindictive dig at academia, entitled “Patronage,” which you can hear Matthew Buckley Smith recite over on Sleerickets. The other one is entitled “Apollinian” and it goes like this:

            

I think of how Nietzsche imagined Apollo—Olympian archer,

eternally winning the gold. Seven strings of a lyre, the eighth one

his bowstring, he strums it and maddens the bumblebees, shivers

the dreamcatcher spiderwebs caught in his sunlight. Apollo far-shooting,

Apollo unflappable, chiseled marmoreal equipoise, ageless

Aegean aloofness. Everyone lowers their gaze from his halo.

A coolheaded musical sun god; a balanced hexameter dream.

          But then I remember the stories that physicists tell of the sun.

They’ve outed his secrets, his orgies of hydrogen fusion, his flareups,

acetylene-eyed mythamphetamine parties all night in the Arctic—

Dionysus, compared to that arsonist, merely an affable lush.

Hotheaded Apollo has always been out of control, his forearms

sunspotted with track marks that hint at how much he’s been shooting

this summer. His manias match his depressions, eleven-year cycles

of clockwork psychoses that surge through the power grid, blow out

the fuses. No bard of ebullient balance, no crafter of reasonable

dactyls, each day he goes chasing a high, then crashes and burns

in the ocean.

                    It has to be maddening, doesn’t it? The weight

of his lyre and light. To be blessed with this infinite absolute music,

then burdened with fallible fleshly musicians to filter it through—

eternally hearing us botch what he births in us, dirges we chirp,

his genius coaxing the coloratura from brindled cows.

No wonder he blazes. Lustrations of language, frustrations of form.

He chases a lover and watches her shiver aloft as a laurel.

He strums to himself for a while, then burns the forest down.

 

            If you couldn’t tell from listening, Majmudar has chosen a refreshingly bold meter for this poem: amphibrachic hexameter. Hexameter is appropriate for the mythological subject matter, as it suggests the rolling dactylic hexameter of Homer, but Majmudar has rendered the hexameter amphibrachically rather than dactylically in order to better match the rising motion natural to the English language. If the phrase amphibrachic hexameter makes your head spin, here's a brief breakdown: an amphibrach follows the stress pattern weak-strong-weak: Bum-BUM-bum. A amphibrachic hexameter line is simply six of these feet in a row: bum-BUM-bum bum-BUM-bum bum-BUM-bum bum-BUM-bum bum-BUM-bum bum-BUM-bum. “I think of how Nietzsche imagined Apollo—Olympian archer.” That’s all it is. 

            What is impressive about this is how natural Majmudar sounds using this relatively exotic meter, and how his organic variations on the meter demonstrate a shrewd understanding of its momentum. For instance, he sometimes slips into pentameter, as in lines 3, 13, 15, and 18, but these variations do not detract from the music, largely because they always occur on an enjambment, a syntactic spillover into the next line. Another slippage that occurs, which I’ve encountered in my own experience composing in triple meters, is the easy passage from amphibrachs to anapests, as in line 11: “Dionysus, compared to that arsonist, merely an affable lush,” which is a perfect line of anapestic hexameter. In this line we also see an example of Majmudar’s delight in internal and partial rhymes, here between “Dionysus” and “arsonist.” An even better example is the previous line: “acetylene-eyed mythamphetamine parties all night in the arctic.” We not only have the nerdy chiming of “acetylene” with “MYTHamphetamine,” itself a cornball pun, but the more subtle harmony of “party” with “arctic,” which continues to echo in the “arsonist” of the next line. Something tells me that if Lin-Manuel Miranda ever needed a ghostwriter, Majmudar could fit the bill. 

            And the fun doesn’t stop here. Triple alliteration abounds, as in “ageless Aegean aloofness,” “bard of ebullient balance,” “fallible fleshly musicians to filter it” or “chases a lover and watches her shiver aloft as a laurel,” which also contains the double harmony of “chases a lover” and “watches her shiver.” My favorite trick however is the Popean wit of line 7: “A cool-headed musical sun god; a balanced hexameter dream.” which is itself a line of hexameter that is balanced by a semi-colon caesura right in the middle. 

            Such rhythmic organization and verbal pyrotechnics poetically make up for the fact that the poem is neither end-rhymed—which would be counter to classical tradition— nor stanzaic. Indeed, the poem is rather made up of three uneven verse paragraphs, which are organized not according to sound but sense. The first offers a sketch of Apollo as a Nietzschean avatar of reason; the second refutes the first by describing the chaotic activity of the actual sun; and the third attempts to account for Apollo’s own admitted rage and chaos. 

            Let’s now go back and read the poem again: 

 

Apollinian

 

I think of how Nietzsche imagined Apollo—Olympian archer,

eternally winning the gold. Seven strings of a lyre, the eighth one

his bowstring, he strums it and maddens the bumblebees, shivers

the dreamcatcher spiderwebs caught in his sunlight. Apollo far-shooting,

Apollo unflappable, chiseled marmoreal equipoise, ageless

Aegean aloofness. Everyone lowers their gaze from his halo.

A coolheaded musical sun god; a balanced hexameter dream.

          But then I remember the stories that physicists tell of the sun.

They’ve outed his secrets, his orgies of hydrogen fusion, his flareups,

acetylene-eyed mythamphetamine parties all night in the Arctic—

Dionysus, compared to that arsonist, merely an affable lush.

Hotheaded Apollo has always been out of control, his forearms

sunspotted with track marks that hint at how much he’s been shooting

this summer. His manias match his depressions, eleven-year cycles

of clockwork psychoses that surge through the power grid, blow out

the fuses. No bard of ebullient balance, no crafter of reasonable

dactyls, each day he goes chasing a high, then crashes and burns

in the ocean.

                    It has to be maddening, doesn’t it? The weight

of his lyre and light. To be blessed with this infinite absolute music,

then burdened with fallible fleshly musicians to filter it through—

eternally hearing us botch what he births in us, dirges we chirp,

his genius coaxing the coloratura from brindled cows.

No wonder he blazes. Lustrations of language, frustrations of form.

He chases a lover and watches her shiver aloft as a laurel.

He strums to himself for a while, then burns the forest down.

 

            We should begin by remarking that Majmudar titles his poem “Apollinian” rather than the more common formulation “Apollonian” as a way of referencing and paying homage to Nietzsche, who uses this term in opposition to the term “Dionysiac” in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy. There, Nietzsche posits that the half-brothers Apollo and Dionysus, who alternate dominion at Delphi, form a symbolic duality, with Apollo representing light, reason, and order, and Dionysus representing darkness, madness, and chaos. It is this vision of Apollo as lord of light and art, domesticator of chaos, which Majmudar brings to this poem. 

            Majmudar’s characteristic impishness comes through immediately as he compares the Olympian god to an Olympic athlete who is forever “winning the gold,” which in Apollo’s case is solar light. Majmudar may also however be referring to the fact that Apollo always makes sure that, by hook or by crook, he wins every competition he is in, as the satyr Marsyas found out to his dismay. The seven strings of the lyre probably refer to the seven colors of the rainbow, all of which are contained in the light of the sun, which illuminates the world with visual music, each ray an arrow shot from Apollo’s bow. Even in this initial sketch, Majmudar makes clear the ambivalence of the god’s power. He describes Apollo’s music as “maddening the bumblebees,” and “shivering the dreamcatcher spiderwebs.” This association of Apollo with madness, fear, cold, and dreams seems contrary to his ostensible functions, but just as yang contains the essence of yin, so does Apollo’s uncanny power stem as much from the Dionysian terror he inspires as the Apollonian order he perpetuates. 

            Majmudar concludes this initial sketch by Homerically assigning this Nietzschean Apollo a number of flowery epithets and descriptors. “Far-shooting” is in fact a theft from Homer, while “chiseled marmoreal equipoise” is Majmudar at his most urbanely exuberant, a perfect example of his high-register cheek. 

            Immediately in the next section, Majmudar not only shifts gears to begin a discussion of the physical sun, but performs a bit of a sleight of hand in his argument. He had ended the last section by referring to Apollo as a “sun god,” which is true. Now however, he begins to speak of Apollo as if Apollo were himself the sun, which, at least according to the myths, he is not—the distinction of being the sun incarnate is reserved for Helios. For the sake of the poem, however, we may choose to ignore this. 

            Majmudar begins by saying: “But then I remember the stories the physicists tell of the sun.” Notably, Majmudar does not privilege science above mythology, but views the former as a subcategory of the latter: science is but one more way, one more set of stories, for interpreting reality, a heuristic which may provide an abundance of practical use, but which is ultimately still an imperfect human approximation of transcendent natural processes. Still, the science is to some extent a revelation of truth. Science speaks to us of “orgies of hydrogen fusion.” As we know, fusion does involve the smashing of protons together, so an erotic description is not wholly unmerited. Moreover, despite his high-falutin qualities, it is true that Apollo is certainly not exempt from lust. 

Science tells us of solar flares, which, by calling “flareups,” Majmudar makes suggestive of either anger or disease, both of which are in fact trademarks of Apollo. In the next line, we get the decorative wordplay of “acetelyne-eyed mythamphetamine parties all night in the Arctic.” Acetelyne is a gas used for blowtorches, which, combined with “mythamphetamines” suggests a blazing drug and sex fueled rave. The party is in the Arctic because it was believed that during the winter months, Apollo sojourned to visit the Hyperboreans in the far North, and thereby neglected to provide much sunshine in the Greek South. Compared to such a destructive hedonist, Majmudar asserts, Dionysus is merely a happy drunk. 

            The wordplay continues as Majmudar compares sunspots to a drug addict’s needle scars, pointing out that both indicate how much Apollo has been “shooting” this summer—whether flares or heroin. He points out that every eleven years, the sun goes through a manic-depressive solar cycle—at its maximum, it sends out an abundance of radiation that can blow out power grids on earth. If you have heard the news of auroras in strange places recently, it is because the sun is going through its maximum as we speak. Given such violent and reckless behavior, Majmudar says, we cannot possibly believe that Apollo is a god of balance or refined craftsmanship. Even from our perspective, he chases a high—noon—and then crashes into the ocean at sunset. 

            Now obviously, as in a metaphysical poem, there is a hefty dose of sophistry and spin-doctoring in such an argument—the point of the section is not to actually convince us that the sun or Apollo is chaotic, but merely to dazzle us with Majmudar’s sunny wordplay. After all, orgies of hydrogen fusion soberly adhere to the laws of physics, and eleven year cycles of waxing and waning are not erratic but mathematically predictable phenomena. Even the revolution and rotation of the planets, the music of the spheres conjured by the sun’s gravitational lyre, is orderly and predictable. If the argument is effective at all, it is not through scientific refutation but through pointing out non-Apollonian traits which are indeed associated with Apollo: lust, rage, moodiness, disease. 

            As if aware that this is the case, Majmudar firmly returns to the mythical Apollo in the last section, and suggests a psychological explanation for his inner turbulence. Apollo, it turns out, is a hopeless Romantic, but from the opposite perspective: rather than an artist frustrated by his imperfect attempts to reach the ideal, he is a god of artists frustrated that his perfect ideal is being marred by artists. He conceives of monumental cosmic dirges, and we insipidly chirp them back at him, like a ringtone version of Mozart. 

“Coaxing the coloratura from brindled cows” is primarily a reference to the forbidden cattle of the sun found in The Odyssey. Once they have been eaten by Odysseus’s men, their hides rise up and begin to walk and bellow like cows once more, a sign of impending doom to the disobedient crew. In the original text, these cattle belonged to Helios, so we see here again Majmudar conflating the god with the titan. Coloratura is an operatic term for a melismatic vocal style, which applied to cattle evokes the ridiculousness of Apollo’s lofty music being filtered through mortal men. Finally, “coloratura” literally means color, a fact which is referenced by the fact that the cows are “brindled,” striped with color. 

            Majmudar sums up Apollo’s predicament with the catchy: “lustrations of language, frustrations of form.” Lustration means ritual purification through sacrifice, something Apollo was known for demanding, most famously in the story of King Oedipus. Apollo seeks, like Mallarme, a purification of language, which can only be marred and frustrated by the forms of materiality.

            Apollo is similarly frustrated in matters of the heart. He famously pursued the nymph Daphne, only for her to turn into a laurel tree to escape his amorous arms. What does this story connote? The frustration of transcendent love having to make do with material existence? The sublimation of erotic desire into the creation of art? In either case, in Majmudar’s version, art is hardly an adequate recompense for the original need: Apollo “strums to himself for a while, then burns the forest down.” The three concluding iambs in this largely amphibrachic poem provide, by rhythmic contrast, a sobriety, gravity, and ominousness to this otherwise teasing poem, and perhaps even a hint of environmentalist critique. If there is a moral here, perhaps it is this: in some circumstances, the rage for order may be more dangerous than the acceptance of oblivion. 

            I will conclude by not only reminding you that on the 13th I will be hosting three tremendous poets at Loganberry Books— George David Clark, Matthew Buckley Smith, and Ryan Wilson— but revealing what many of you may now have guessed: the following month, July 11th, I will be hosting Amit Majmudar himself. I hope to see some of you at one or both of these readings, which are sure to be amazing, and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at versecraftpodcast@gmail.com

            Finally, with all that we’ve learned and explored, let’s hear this poem one last time, as an old friend:

 

Apollinian

 

I think of how Nietzsche imagined Apollo—Olympian archer,

eternally winning the gold. Seven strings of a lyre, the eighth one

his bowstring, he strums it and maddens the bumblebees, shivers

the dreamcatcher spiderwebs caught in his sunlight. Apollo far-shooting,

Apollo unflappable, chiseled marmoreal equipoise, ageless

Aegean aloofness. Everyone lowers their gaze from his halo.

A coolheaded musical sun god; a balanced hexameter dream.

          But then I remember the stories that physicists tell of the sun.

They’ve outed his secrets, his orgies of hydrogen fusion, his flareups,

acetylene-eyed mythamphetamine parties all night in the Arctic—

Dionysus, compared to that arsonist, merely an affable lush.

Hotheaded Apollo has always been out of control, his forearms

sunspotted with track marks that hint at how much he’s been shooting

this summer. His manias match his depressions, eleven-year cycles

of clockwork psychoses that surge through the power grid, blow out

the fuses. No bard of ebullient balance, no crafter of reasonable

dactyls, each day he goes chasing a high, then crashes and burns

in the ocean.

                    It has to be maddening, doesn’t it? The weight

of his lyre and light. To be blessed with this infinite absolute music,

then burdened with fallible fleshly musicians to filter it through—

eternally hearing us botch what he births in us, dirges we chirp,

his genius coaxing the coloratura from brindled cows.

No wonder he blazes. Lustrations of language, frustrations of form.

He chases a lover and watches her shiver aloft as a laurel.

He strums to himself for a while, then burns the forest down.