Featured Poem • August 2014

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Orpheus

 

Geoffrey A. Landis

 
 

Always, after, he would tell that one tiny lie so often he would come to believe it himself— When he walked out of the underworld, every sense at its pitch, straining his ears for the sound of her footfalls, trying to catch her womanly scent, feeling with the hairs at the back of his neck for the lightest touch of her breath he heard only his own breath felt only the prickling of his own sweat smelled only the stink of sulfur seeping from the rocks of the Earth Telling himself don't look, don't look, don't look, don't look knowing that a man can only escape from hell once that if ever he tried to go back, this time he would be allowed no requests And the king of hell, who grants no favors, who lets none from his kingdom return, the king who does not laugh who granted him one favor who gave him leave to return one from his kingdom to the world who made him promise just one thing, to never look behind And he kept faith with the king of hell, for the sake of his love he did not look back until that final moment, as he emerged from the crevice between shattered boulders emerged from darkness into blinding brightness and turned back to the shadows— always, after, he would tell that he saw her, there, alive for one moment for one moment only before she slipped away silent as a dream silent as shadows— But blinded by the brightness of the world, to Orpheus's day-dazzled eyes, in shadows darker than black: he saw nothing. This is the lie Orpheus tells himself: that when he left the underworld he was not alone.

 

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Geoff-and-cats_smallGeoffrey A. Landis is a writer, a poet, and a scientist. He has won the Hugo and Nebula awards for best science fiction, and the Rhysling award for best poem. His poetry chapbook Iron Angels came out in 2009 from vanZeno, a small press based in Cleveland. He is also the author of the novel Mars Crossing and the story collection Impact Parameter (and Other Quantum Realities). He was recently named the recipient of the 2014 Robert A. Heinlein Award “bestowed for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space.”

More information can be found at his web page, http://www.geoffreylandis.com/.design


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