I reviewed a book of poetry, The Throne of Psyche by Marly Youmans, for the latest issue of Mythprint. The title poem contained a retelling of the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche, and I was asked to review it because of my interest in myths. I discussed the title poem in some detail in my review, but a couple other poems really struck me. In “The Exile’s Track,” the narrator perceives a wonder of nature that impresses upon her a narrative about its history and her relation to it. This poem seems to me to reflect the way I imagine many of the great myths coming into being — not as conscious explanations for natural phenomena, but more as intuitive insights that arise subconsciously in response to them.
At midnight I went down to the lake, and there
I saw the northern lights as seven swords
Of long-dead kings that glimmered in the sky.
They were as thin and cold as icicles,
Set evenly above a shoal of cloud—
The winter’s glittering eyes drew low to see,
Its glories made into one burning look.
I stepped onto the marble arrowhead
That points the way to North forevermore,
And though I stood below a canopy
Close-crowded with the bright burrs of the stars,
And though I held my love, and though our children
Were safe and sleeping at my back, I met
And knew a loneliness beyond all heal.
A silvery voice arose out of the spires,
Out of the dark’s offhanded elegance:
You gave your heart away, oh, long ago,
So there’s no help–now you must bide in frost,
And when you die, the reaper’s men will scar
The ground for your grave, or else will burn your limbs
And bury the ash in a wall of stone.