The Gadfly Drives

For his love I sweated on the bull’s back; from land to land I made my groaning way, and never an open door I found, never the smiling eyes of hospitality, never the warm light of welcome. Always she drove me, like bad habits in despair, like instinct, like anger, and for two years I ran before her, my feet heavy above the echoing earth. I lost his face in the first year; and the aura of his presence, the music of his voice. In the second year I learned doubt upon the churning sea, while within me grew that child that found no release, either upon fertile shorelands or upon the tarring boards beside some nameless cannon. Where was he, who was he? Was this child a dream of gravity?

It burned my feet to walk, slashed and stung, as island coals, as testing glasses, as dreams fulfilled, but still she drove me on. Her face I never knew, for how shall one know the hidden spaces of the daylight? How might I find the secret within a deepening well? But her voice I heard upon the cliffs, mournful and hungry, or crying over the tossy waves hooooopoeeeee, in the flights of philomels, in the matriarchal packs of hyenas, and in my dreams. She leans into my belly as I lay sweating and febrile and whispers dark words to my child, my children, and they turn and nod and solemn bow, there within, like sunflowers, like hunting beasts.