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The Attraction of Diminishing Returns


1. Sisyphus, a mortal man

suspected he had a broken bone.

Sisyphus, suspicious that his heart,

The act he could not accomplish —

Sisyphus suspected

best not say

the way to his heart had a bend in it now

he'd look through to life

with refracted eyes, cracked

by the heavy blessings of the last two minutes

and a belief

that survival is straight.

A man becomes a fly

when his eye

a mosaic of tiles,

(cracked pepper, black fraction of a grip, corn-

ea divided by a single need for sustenance,

traction on soft white, get a gaze, graze this)

adopts the search for a one,

loses perspective and all the fifteenth century since then.

His story repeats itself.

In shock, he circles the block.

Goodbye. An eye for candlelight.

Looking for the disappearing point.

Finding only one thing, he pushed it.


2. Merope, immortally a sister

A woman in love.

"He's immortal, now.

He's made a name."

The woman with tears but no pity,

who only knows suffering from winter air

and seeks ways.

She finds comfort in colors

and takes a northern blue despair

not to cheer it, but to breathe out its steam

on the window, where she may draw

what she knows; consider the glass

pane—

its threat of breaking under the weight of variables

(parables)

before the formula saturates again.

Humid air occludes unchosen Whens.

She never puts pictures away. These are clues,

but all are disconnected by their season of disuse.


3. Cry.

I will say this,

you will what? his voice a mousetrap

Don't distract me, I have a point to make

say. Ess A. It's a try.


Merope waited for days.

His eyes were on the rock, only.

She thought have I come all this way to be ignored? Yes, okay.

He got to the top of the mountain and brushed his hands

on the pockets of his jeans.

Hi, Merope, so casual; head already aiming for the bottom of the slope,

anticipating rockslides.


4. I know.

Borrowed time

Slime

From something, a memory of algae

and Merope, and the tide.

Eyes wide.


This climb.

Tactile hypothermia, can't feel or find.


This is the longest day.

Beer? The end? Brew. Brand.

A word needs no stomach to land in.


5. Calendar:

Jupiter plucks at Pluto through his blankets,

on his couch. Gods dream of having edges. Dream of skin.

Made at the mercy of whim and vision, they grope for dark

while night lasts, study absence, an eternal room.

Change the decor. Colors race by in durable lobby weave.


But I

have a memory of eyes that promised company.

I have made him fear his hands.


Left me for a rock,

but rescued me from

seasides under glass.

Now, I look at the back of a man

and know his plans for eternity.


I'm pale, for a goddess,

nobody likes me up here.

I haven't the complexion for pining.

Can't listen to the wind.

I think I smell the sweat of Sisyphus.

He is in my nostrils and won't leave.

I hide in the kitchen and wash dishes.


For three hours every day, I walk

in an illusory Away.


Your efforts

move me.

I can see your back,

in all of this.


Your body keeps a record of repetition.

I look at you and see yesterday.


I throw myself at you, a stone.

You didn't imagine it.



—Audrey Freudenberg




Audrey Freudenberg has a degree in theater studies from Yale University and an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Montana. She lives in Seattle.

Originally published in the February/March 2002 issue of Boston Review


Copyright Boston Review, 1993–2005. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

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