Burning Down the House      (for Orfeo Angelucci) by Emil Sinclair

Burning Down the House
     (for Orfeo Angelucci)

by Emil Sinclair

How did I survive
the fire so intense
it melts glass and steel?
My old life in ruins
I am a bewildered tourist
gawking at the rubble
of a terminal moraine.
At glaciers end,
where nothing moves,
my nostrils burn
from acrid smoke
and arctic air.
Fire and ice:
I am Shiva, dancing;
a plague for Athens
in its twilight hours.

Water logged shingles
drop like rotted teeth
from an old man’s gums,
through charred cross
beams and empty air
(no ceilings or floors),
to land in heaping piles
of Wednesday’s ashes.

I survey the debris:
certificates of security,
burned beyond recognition;
keepsakes of friendship,
brittle and broken;
memories of joy,
twisted into grotesque
masks of mourning
and mordant self-pity.

Fragments of lost souls—
crescent moon-shaped
curls of iridescent ectoplasm—
swim blindly around my feet,
squiggling like headless tadpoles
in a turgid pond,
lamenting their dire fate
with shrill cries of anguish.
A Greek chorus of woe.

With an angry groan
the floor collapses;
the cellar cracks open,
as if by earthquake split
into a deep depression
ringed by sheer rock cliffs.
I am caught by a ledge
altogether too narrow
to sit, or stand, or lie;
my right ankle grabbed
by the outstretched crook
of an ancient gnarled limb.
I dangle precariously
over the dark abyss,
strung upside down
on the thinnest of threads.

From the dim vale below,
the voices call up to me
in a sonorous echo:
“Orfeo! Orfeo!
Orfeo of the bright angels!
Come down to us!
Descend to our kingdom
of restless shades
to reclaim your lost life!”

The call goes unanswered.
For I am The Hanged Man,
suspended in space,
my perspective askew—
caught between worlds—
unable to move, nor
take a full breath.
I am King Minos,
trapped in my palace of doom,
avoiding my Minotaur,
who sleeps,
dreaming fitfully,
alone in his labyrinth.
I am The Fisher King,
with nowhere to go
in the land of waste,
and no hope for the grail
to cure what ails me.

How do I survive
the six degrees
of separation,
the sixth extinction,
the six feet apart,
with no seventh to rest?
I wait for a miracle.
Where is the mothership
to ferry me home?

Process notes:
Orfeo M. Angelucci was an early member of the club of UFO contractees in the 1950s. His case and its archetypal aspects was analyzed by C.G. Jung, in his late, classic work, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (1958). Other works referenced include those of Joseph Campbell, T.S. Eliot, and, of course, Talking Heads.

Emil Sinclair is the pseudonym of a sometime poet and longtime philosophy professor (teaching at a distance) in New York City.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: