Friday, January 20, 2017

Jack Scott writes

Lake of the Lost Fisherman 

I could not afford intimidation,
or being overwhelmed.
Whatever lay before me
must be tackled
one heft at a time.
The first I chose to shoulder
was too heavy to keep there
so I chose again.
Then, turning, I saw Magi,
three specters in the mist
my neighbors from the other tent:
young surveyors
offering six hands and arms.

Sisyphus had no help
perhaps because he asked for none;
help was not in my plan either,
but gratitude was quick to come.
I thanked them in advance and after,
and also in between.
We chose my logs
and stacked them
in a pile close by my tent.
We four made short work of it.

God bless surveyors,
but in this wilderness
what could need surveying?
A road, they said,
not too far from there.
They offered me a drink
to warm me up
(though I was sweating -
steaming, actually)
inviting me into the homey
comfort of their tent.

They lived well while on the road,
working at their job;
they were not roughing it.
I turned down a second drink -
brandy I think it was,
I know I made a face at it.
I had a little beer at “home”
I was saving for dessert
if I could get dry
and warm enough
to cook and eat
a real meal first.


  1. In the "Gospel of Matthew" the three Magi presented gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh)to the newborn Jesus; in Jack's poem they gave Jack something alcoholic to drink, but he declined their offer of brandy.

  2. Sisyphus was the son of king Aeolus of Thessaly and Enarete and the founder of Ephyra (Corinth). In Platon's "Apology," he had Socrates praise him as a wise man that he might meet in the afterlife. His wife was the nymph Merope, the only daughter of Atlas and Pleione to marry a mortal. Pleione, the protector of sailors, was the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys; Merope and her six sisters were were the companions of Artemis, the protector of hunters and wild animals, and the caretakers of the infant Bacchus. Orion fell in love with their beauty and grace and pursued them for 12 years; when Artemis asked her father Zeus to protect them, he turned into doves, but later (along with Orion) he changed them into stars (the Pleiades) forever pursued by Orion. (In another version Zeus turned them into stars, but Artemis became angry since she could no longer could see her companions, so her twin brother Apollo sent a giant scorpion to kill Orion; Zeus then turned Orion into a constellation to continue his pursuit of the Pleiades. Because she hid her face in shame due to her affair with Sisyphus, she was the faintest of the stars. (Another myth claimed she went to Hades with her husband.) Merope gave birth to his successor Glaukos, whom Sisyphus tried to arrange a marriage with Mestra. [Her father Erysichthon ("earth-tearer") had killed a dyrad nymph when he cut down a huge oak covered with votive wreaths, symbolic of every prayer Demeter had granted; Demeter had Limos, the spirit of unrelenting and insatiable hunger, place herself in Erysichthon's stomach, so the more he ate, the hungrier he got. Desperate for food, he sold Mestra to Glaukos, but her former lover Poseidon gave her the gift of shape-shifting into any creature to escape her bonds. Erysichthon eventually ate himself.] Glaukos offended Aphrodite either by scorning her or by keeping his mares from mating in order to preserve their speed. He married a daughter of Nisus named Eurymede, but Zeus declared that he would sire no children due to Aphrodite's anger. Eurymede (through Poseidon) gave birth to Bellerophon, the hero who rode the flying horse Pegaus against the Chimera, a with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail. Glaukos fed his mares on human flesh to make them fierce in battle, but in a chariot race against Herakles' nephew Iolaus they devoured Glaukos. The other children of Sisyphus and Merope included Ornytion and Almus (Ornytion joined the people of Hyampolis in their war against the Opuntian Locrians over Daphnus, after winning the kingdom for himself, he handed it over to his son Phocus and returned to Corinth with his other son Thoas, who succeeded him; Phocus cured Antiope of her madness induced by Dionysus and married her. Almus was granted a small tract of land in Orchomenus by king Eteocles; his daughter Chryse consorted with Ares and bore Phlegyas, who inherited Orchomenus after Eteocles died childless; Almus' other daughter Chrysogeneia consorted with Poseidon and bore Chryses, who succeeded Phlegyas as king of Orchomenus, and in his turn became father of Minyas, the first king to make a treasury).

  3. Though Sisyphus promoted navigation and commerce, he killed travellers and guests. He and his brother Salmoneus hated each other. After consulting the oracle of Delphi how to kill him without incurring any severe consequences for himself, Sisyphus seduced Salmoneus's daughter Tyro, but when she leaned that he was planning to use their children to dethrone her father she killed them. In return for causing a spring to flow on the Corinthian acropolis, he revelead the whereabouts of Aegina (who had been abducted by Zeus) to her father, the river god Asopus. In retaliation, Zeus ordered Hades or Thanatos (Death) to chain Sisyphus in Tartarus. Slyly, Sisyphus asked the god to demonstrate how the chains worked, then took the opportunity to trap the god instead. This prevented anyone from dying in battle or disease, the old and sick siffered without release, and sacrifices could not be made to the gods. Either Ares (the god of war) freed the captive god and chained Sisyphus again, or the gods threatened to make life so miserable for Sisyphus that he would wish he were dead, causing him to remove the chains. Before his death, he had told his wife to throw his naked body into the public square as a test of her love for him, rather than giving hm a proper funeral; thus, he was transported to the shores of the Styx river in the underworld. Complaining to Hades' wife Persephone that this was a sign of his wife's disrespect for him, he persuaded her to allow him to return to the upper world. Or, in another version, he peruaded Persephone that he had been conducted to Tartarus by mistake, and she ordered his released. When he refused to return to the underworld, Hermes forcibly dragged him back. Bcause of his belief that his nobody could surpass his own cleverness, Zeus demonstated his own superior cleverness by dooming Sisyphus to roll a boulder up a hill and enchanted the boulder into rolling away from Sisyphus and hitting him before he reached the top, forcing Sisyphus to endlessly begin the task again. Ovidus, the Roman poet, wrote that Orpheus descended to the underworld and sang an enchanting song to Hades and Persephone to allow him to rescue Eurydice back from the dead; the song was so affecting that Sisyphus halted his eternal task to listen.


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