Brother of Tantalus

Upon the shallow river’s floor,
The boy is found,
His clothes hang heavy,
By a burden he finds himself bound.
He empties his fears,
As they flow from his ears,
He escapes them not,
For a new guide appears.
A joyous smile,
That cuts ear to ear,
Sparkling eyes,
“What have we here?”
Blinking the tears from his own
Does he turn,
To find someone new
From which he must learn.
“It appears you’ve fallen quite a ways down,
I wonder if perhaps,
You’ve shattered that crown.”
A grimace replies,
“I know not of what you imply,”
He returns tersely before a pause, then a flash of a smile,
“Do you know he who walks up and down that mountainside.”
An eye cast upward,
A distance to see,
Through the breaks in the trees,
An apple nestled perfectly where Sisyphus ought to be.
“Ah, indeed… I know of his pain,”
The old man replies quite plain,
Tell me Brother, what had he to say?”
A breath of relief,
Someone normal to which he could speak,
“Elaborate illusions of the world and its ways,
Certainly on matters of certainty,
His mind’s gone astray.”
The old man sucks in through his teeth,
Looking behind him to a towering tree,
“Ah, well I wonder indeed what you did find,
Perhaps stay with me awhile,
And take fruit from this vine.”
Gestures he,
Up towards the canopy.
A questioning eye,
Still yet the boy complies,
A quick hop and a climb,
Plucked from its youth,
An apple,
Nay,
Two.
He slides down from the trunk,
A sloshing ensues.
Sailing through the air,
One apple with intention to be shared.
But it cannot be consumed,
For as it nears thither,
It withers,
Then dies.
A dull thud sounds,
As it hops against the shell covered ground.
No shock or disappointment is echoed in the old man’s face,
For he knows this spot,
The point,
And his place,
“Well go on then,
Tell me how it tastes!”
An eye on the apple still left in his hand,
A raising forth to his lips,
A bite and a swallow,
A face that turns hollow.
“It’s bitter yet sour,
I think picked before its hour.”
A boisterous laughter follows,
“Brother,
The sky is beautiful until you must lift it,
The fruits are sour until you’re forbidden.”
A frail hand reaches up,
An apple it hopes to clutch,
But a creaking disapproves,
As the tree reels back at the man’s slightest move.
A shock to the spine,
A burning running cross the young boy’s mind,
As the old man lets loose a tight-lipped grin.
The young boy spits glistening dew from his lips,
Stumbling forward,
Cutting towards him like dirt to a spade,
Ecstatic for someone new whom he can save,
“Oh! Have you been cursed?
Certainly, you must hear of the good news I have-”
The man waves his hand,
“Nay, I need not hear that which you have to say,
I’ve learned quite enough,
The dangers of what others’ words may contain.
All these things people so rehearse,
I’d rather find Truth beneath the dirt.”
A pause,
Then two,
Eyes running over this man whom held no youth,
Cracked lips and yet a pearly white smile,
The driest skin he’d seen in a while.
A gaze moving down,
To the drought the man stood around.
“Ah, I see you’ve caught on,
The blessings in which I stand upon,”
Said the old man his eyes cast toward that which surrounds.
“Blessings?
I see nothing but curses,
A refusal of food,
And drink when you’re thirsty.”
A gleeful movement finds the old man’s feet,
He turns and turns to a silent beat,
“But see the trees have blessed me!
For in my presence they dance!”
He exclaims hopping forward,
Eyes wide as the tree sways
Every which way.
“But that’s hardly-”
“And, oh, see my Brother!
See how the riverbed loves me!
See it part the waters to greet me!”
He stoops forward,
A childish giggle,
As the water flows away and then fizzles.
An anger flashes static through the boy’s mind,
As a silent flush hand curves round his throat,
“Have you forgotten yourself!
Your age does not match your childish wonder!
This is punishment,
Retribution!
A crime for your blunder!”
Cries he, desperate to set yet another free.
A gentle riposte in reply,
Shone through the kind in the old man’s eyes,
“You ask me to know myself?
I don’t think I have that kind of time,
No… not the time…”,
The old man says his eyes drifting upward,
“I don’t even know if I have the ability,
Would you pardon me,
Could you?
Could I be forgiven?
For not knowing, for it being beyond me?
Could I be forgiven… could I be?”
The old man repeated eyes somewhere above.
The boy felt a push on his chest,
A cringe working its way round his face,
The old man’s eyes descend, sharpening once more,
“All of life is a pitiless fight,
I was blessed with this here plight,
I’ve found a way to kindle my light,
Despite any howling winds in sight.”
The boy’s mouth grows slack,
An anger besetting his brow.
He puts forth his tongue,
Let’s his outrage be sung,
“Unsalvageable,
Unsavable,
Unwilling,
Unwise!
You think this punishment is pleasure disguised?”
The water collapses back in,
Wetting his feet,
And chilling his skin
As the old man steps aside,
Parting the waters like hay to a scythe,
“Did Sisyphus teach you nothing of purpose and life,
Or did you fail to see what’s in front of your eyes?”
The boy swallows hard,
As the dance of sea and tree takes place
In front of his sight.
An empty chest rings back
At the sound of the old man’s delight.
“I-…. I should hope to meet you again,
When the day ends
And you see the Truth does not bend.”
He begins to walk,
Towards a far off shore he can see,
A voice sounds behind,
“Have I the time to know myself?
No… no… certainly not,
I’ve only the time to be happy,
Yes… to be happy… to be happy”
The boy feels something within him creak,
But he opens his mouth and speaks,
“You’re a foolish man that thirst and hunger blinds,
Guided by your selfish hues,
I should surely hope that Truth finds you.”
He trudges on,
Not caring to listen to the old man’s song,
Waist deep he swims,
He pushes till the waves give in,
On solid land he finds his legs,
He crawls atop and down he lays.
Back against the grassy mounds,
Looking toward heaven-bound,
Eyes cast inward,
Something,
Tightly wound.
A deafening crash,
Within,
His wires upend,
A steady heartbeat sounds,
As the birds descend.

2 thoughts on “Brother of Tantalus

  1. nikshah22

    It’s only punishment if that’s how you take it. Plight or pleasure? It’s whatever you make it.
    Ignore my amateur ass trying to improvise xD what is of importance is that the poem was great. Thoroughly understandable for the common reader while also maintaining the quality of poetic devices 👌

    Liked by 1 person

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