Tiresias and Cadmus

by Matthew Stokdyk

at his dusk,
Tiresias trod through Theban wood
unled save by auspice
and long memories of long walks

when then a noise
a rustling midst the leaf piles
of scales gliding
against the scraped ground

turning sharp ears
he stooped and shook the earth
to find two snakes
making love beneath the trees

when then his heart
fluttered, remembering airy days
as a woman.
and he longed for nine parts of ten

once more—once more
he thought to tap against the scales
feel the release
of orgastic womanhood at the strike of a rod.

seven lifetimes
and nothing compared, but,
through cruel fate,
he had never found another pair

of fucking snakes.
so raising up his walking stick
he went to hit
but in his frailty merely bruised

the target,
who screamed “old friend!
how I’ve missed you!”
blind eyes widening—

“Cadmus?”
“We glide on to Elysium
at last.”
“I’m sorry to keep you, then.”

“Be careful,
old man, that the next serpent
not sow
its teeth in your furrows.”

and Cadmus,
old money, older man, slithered on,
wife in tow,
leaving Tiresias again—alone.

Originally published in America's Emerging Poets 2018: Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Of note, I was the only poet featured to get away with using the word fuck.

The poem follows an invented encounter between Tiresias—the great blind Theban seer who lived for seven years as a woman, all because he struck two copulating snakes—and Cadmus, founder of Thebes, who was transformed into a snake upon his death.

Matthew Stokdyk © 2018. All rights reserved.