Orpheus Plays The Bronx

When I was ten (no, younger
than that), my mother tried
to kill herself (without the facts
there can't be faith). One death
or another every day, Tanqueray bottles
halo the bed and she won't wake up
all weekend. In the myth book's color
illustration, the poet turns around
inside the mouth of hell to look at her
losing him (because it's not her fault
they had to meet there): so he can keep her
somewhere safe, save her place
till she comes back. Some say
she stepped on an asp, a handful of pills
littered the floor with their blues,
their red and yellow music. Al Green
was on the radio. (You were
at school, who's ever even seen
an asp?) It bruised her heel
purple and black. So death
could get some color to fill out
his skin, another bony white boy
jealous of all her laugh too loud, her
That's my song when Barry White
comes on. He's just got
to steal it, he can't resist
a bad pun, never never gonna give her
up, or back. The pictures don't prove
anything, but one thing I remember
about the myth's still true:
the man can't live if she does.
She survived to die for good.

by Reginald Shepherd

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