A Mill on the Lethe

by Alex Stanley


I remember when I didn’t have enough money

To make it through the summer,

Scraping the dirt with my nails, there you are my Muses.

I transformed my anger into verse,

Then, there it was again, my fingers twisted into a gun,

The image returned as fire.

I know I am not a legend—I sing them.

Let the faun’s flute play in the background

Near where the canvas meets the sky.

It’s been five long years of finishing what I started,

Setting down flowers on half-formed dreams,

My mind in the vast wilderness without light;

Time steps out of its shoes in the deep woods.

My beloved, what happens when we stand still—

Your name and shape drifting each further night.

Can we really be all we’re meant to be

When the birds twitter our demise?

The light casts my arm, and then it rises,

Then it falls—the endless proving what I already am.

I know great things and small things;

Seeds and splintered trunks complement the landscape,

But it was all for naught. Was it not?

The window lets a scream as it opens,

Each day growing softer for the smiles

We send each other like sweet smells in the wind;

The laughter brushes off our shoulders

Back to the dirt from whence it came.

I remember the seasons I thought I was my mind,

Stitching the city blue, scissors poised around thread,

Losing sight in the descent—the dark mist of hunger.

Now, my wishes are so close to the breath, I taste them.

Tongue to my upper lip, my teeth cut through it;

My ears drip the stories I’ve never heard before,

The candlelight waning with each one.

Words drop on a bed of stones until a river forms,

Each life needing only the current—

What our fathers left unsaid, we can never forget.

I remember because it was last summer

When the people and the birds and the trees

All turned to laugh at me,

When l was nobody’s fool but my own,

Stuffing shades into bottles

For the rest of time, releasing them to the air,

Drinking from a river of fire, exhaling smoke.

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