“As Orestes Kisses the Flies Goodbye” by Will Schmitz


His mother raises herself up
& looks around.  “Is the play over?”
Then why didn’t anyone tell her?

Edward Teller, in a smock of platinum and gold,
Is lecturing the audience of jackals and 3-legged dogs
On the dangers of matricide.  “If you have to
Kill the bitch,” he is saying, “for god’s sake
Don’t do it with an axe; do it with a hammer
Pollax her.  There’ll be less blood.  People will notice
Your neatness and it will be much easier to get hired.”

(the three-legged dogs are, of course,
south american generals but the jackals
refuse to leave their business cards)


When Oppenheimer got two-timed by
Vishnu and saw the pictures
Of what was left of the bodies he baked
In that oven he managed to concoct
He realized that what he’d thought
Had been enough but not a lot.

“Can you remember the pony you used to ride?
Where was it now: at the fairground or the lake?
You always liked to make it trot
Until the time it ran towards a wall
And threw you off.”

I can remember a train station waiting room
Full of Indian women
Blowing their noses into their saris.

“Only the man who runs the shooting gallery at the fairground
Remembers You.”


Or, to change the relationship
Between Orestes and his mother,
We’ll have to arrest Clytemnestra
Before she goes swinging in
To visit her husband in his bath.

This being done, we could
Sit in a darkened room and
Create flashes of light by
Scratching on a perfectly cleaved
Specimen of sphalerite.


The century in which Orestes killed his mother
Seems like only a moment ago.  “When I held up
The sacrifice and tossed it over the side of the temple
I sure scared those Spaniards who were thinking about
Sacking our city!”

Putting an onyx onto his finger
The pilot jetted off into a skyful of dreams
And, when over the Mediterrean, what did it matter
If he came down?

What did
It matter
He came down?
It was
A sky full
Of dreams.

“The Holy City will always be the same
Because it exists in enough fevered minds.”
Tertullian and Augustine and Heliogabalus
Have finally come together in the same line.
Like Wild Bill, Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane
They lived on a frontier
Flailing away at their humanity.

“The Holy City only shines
Into dirty windows at night,”
Sings a square dancer from Hoboken
Whose crinoline
Is made from the ashes
Of those crisped on Honshu.

“There is a fiction in this new world
That failed to shine in the last,” says
The Aztec priest who has just kicked
His last dismembered body
Down the steps.

It’s the last inning
Everyone’s out
And there will never be another season.
The flies, after a brief rest, are back
On Orestes’ trail.

The ring has slipped off the dreamer’s finger
Into madder hands.

A bit of the 20th Century has
Chomped off your fingers.
My, what a pickle you’re in.
You could move left
You could move down
But what a smell there would be.


They have left you in a ditch
To learn the habits of the grey waters.
Coiling kingsnakes and blue peasants needing to vomit
Walk up next to you and smile.  You have your nose
In a five seasons center and flies come chasing by
Screaming Orestes’ name.  Where have they left you,
My boy?  Under a wreath of myrtle,
Atop a mountain of dust?
“No.  They have left me in a play
Printed for millions of eyes
In which I cycle through my years of misery
Back to the same point
Without ever reaching my vindicating trial.”


Or trying to tie up a bevy of furies out for your blood
Isn’t as carefree an activity as Icarus thought.
Orestes managed the labor with delicacy.
You have to be able to do that
When you’re petitioning the gods to retry your case:
A chore as tedious and difficult as obtaining an invitation
Into Louis Phillipe’s salon
But not as worthwhile.


For all we feel in the world
There is a necessary lack of skill
For beholding what passes, dies
Ducks to the side, rises in between
The sheets at morning
And the quiet cliffs of night
Or: what glides through
The tongues and rivers is
The vein tortured blue
By what you cannot do.


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