POEM: “Orpheus the Coward”


Orpheus the Coward


I did not kill myself for love.

I didn’t tear apart my broken heart,

show its bloody pieces to the world


unless you count my music.

In that I laid myself bare,

my grief as exposed as an infant

left on a lonely hill

for beasts to feast upon.


I did not kill myself for love.

I didn’t choose to die,

to trap us both in that deep darkness,

breathe the earth above our heads

as we quake in Hades’s rich domain,

both doomed to finally drink

from that fatal river that makes us forget

each other.


I did not kill myself for love.

I chose to run to hell

to bring my love to life,

to calm the viscous demon-dog’s rage,

to bring salt tears to the icy cheeks

of Hades and his Queen,

to rescue my wife of a single day,

to bring her back to that same day’s sun.


I did not kill myself for love.

I chose to lead her back

from those cold depths,

feel her silent steps

behind me but never look to see.

The price of her freedom

my uncertainty.


But the Fates are bitches

that toy with human lives:

my feet touched earth,

yet still I looked back too soon.

She remained in darkness.

I lost her at the border

between life and death,

dark and light, fear and hope.

Her fading farewell,

as translucent as the hand

I reached for

but could not grab.


No second charm would work

on Hell’s cold denizens.


I did not kill myself for love.

I sat and thought and tried

to find a way through the fog

of my brain to win her back again.

None came, but as I struggled

to compose my next hopeless plan,

alone with my lyre,

just me and my pain,

I was torn apart,

my body as broken as my heart.


I did not kill myself for love,

but I was not sorry to go.



Thank you for visiting my blog! The above poem was inspired by the Speech of Phaedrus in Plato’s Symposium in which Orpheus was dubbed a coward because he did not die for love like a more traditional hero. 

Wherever you are, stay safe, stay well, and read often!


*Image courtesy of www.publicdomainpictures.net via Creative Commons License.

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