Thursday, September 21, 2006

Remember Oedipus?

I've neglected Poetry Thursday lately, but DebR posted a kind of companion poem to one she had posted earlier. The earlier poem was Eve and Medusa, this one is titled Love Letter and begins "Dear Samson..." Her choices reminded me of this one (I have several "myth" poems) by David Ignatow.


My hands shook as I bargained for passage,
my hands shook because by his face I could tell
he was not one I could bargain with; death only
was his price. And when he lashed out at me
from his preeminence, his chariot, my hand
leapt to my sword, my throat ached.
I had no head then to consider I was killing
one who like myself had not been brought up
to countenance such manners, as to bargain.
Only against my grain I had wanted to.
I killed him, I felt myself cut off;
I heard myself inwardly go mad,
I had destroyed an image I hated:
I was destroyed.

--David Ignatow

So Oedipus fulfilled the prophecy and unknowingly killed his own father. The prophecy that O. would kill his father led Laius (a man with a pretty creepy past to atone for even before attempting to kill his own son) to have the baby Oedipus left on a mountain top to die. But as Oedipus concludes in this poem, the destruction of his father is also self-destruction--and everyone knows the rest of the prophecy isn't too cheerful either. The sins of the fathers...


  1. That's the first time I'd read that poem about the story, Jen. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Enlightening! So good to read the poem! Thanks!

  3. This has nothing to do with the poem but...Yesterday when a friend and I were at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, your blog came up. We were talking about your fabric weaving Halloween quilt.

  4. DebR- I have 2 poems about Medusa, but neither is as good as the one you posted, even though one is by Louise Bogan. Somewhere I have another Oedipus poem, but couldn't find it. Love looking as different viewpoints on mythology.

    abhay- Glad you liked it. Freud sure made Oedipus an icon, didn't he?

    Jules- How strange to realize the way the blog-world works! I need to get back to work and finish that sucker!


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