Saturday, November 1, 2014

Jon Corelis

Sophocles:  The death of Oedipus

You've seen yourselves how he went from here,
no friend as guide, but showing us all
where we had to go.  When he'd reached the sheerly
plunging Verge rooted to earth
by its Steps of Bronze, he paused at a place
in the branching ways where the Basin of Rock
still testifies to the deathless trust
King Theseus placed in Perithous,
and, poised at a point equidistant from there
and the Crag of Dawn and the Maiden's Tree
and the Marble Tomb, he took his stand,
and stripping off his ragged clothes
he called to his daughters and told them to find
some running stream for water to wash
and offer the gods, and they ran to the Mound
of Green Mother Earth, which lies close by,
and brought down what their father had asked,
and they washed his body and wrapped him in white
like you do when it comes; and when he was sure
it was all done right and that none of the things
he had meant to arrange had been left undone,
then a rumbling thunder roared underground
from the Zeus of the Dead, and the terrified girls
fell at their father's knees with a scream,
beating their breasts with long drawn moans,
and he, at the sound of their keening lament,
gathered them into his arms and said,
"Today forever your father is gone.
All that I am dissolves:  lay down
the heavy load of sustaining my life.
I know it was hard, but a single word
cancels the pain:  that word is love.
No man's was ever like mine for you.
Without me now let your lives unfold."
Clinging together with words like these,
father and children became one torrent
of tears, but when, exhausting their grief,
there was nothing more left, a silence prevailed,
but was shattered then by a summoning voice
so dreadful it stood our hair on end;
from everywhere echoed the call of the god:
"You there, Oedipus, what are you waiting for?
It is time to go.  You're making us late."
And he, recognizing the voice of the god,
groped for Lord Theseus, King of this land,
to come near, and told him, "Dearest of friends,
give me the pledge of your hand for my daughters,
and you, children, for him.  Promise
not to desert them; be their protector;
act in their interest; always be kind."
And the King, with the calm of noble restraint,
accepted the oath this stranger imposed.
When all this was done, Oedipus then,
stroking his daughters with his blind hands,
said, "Children, your duty is now to leave
this place, not claiming the right to see
or hear what the god forbids.  Go quickly:
Theseus alone has the right to stay
to witness what now must happen at last."
All of us there could hear what he said,
and helpless with weeping we followed the girls.
After we'd gone a short way, we turned
and found he was gone:  the King was alone,
holding his hand as a shield for his eyes,
as if he looked on a terror beyond
the painfulness human sight could endure;
and after a moment of stillness, he bowed
in reverence both to the earth and the sky.
As for Oedipus, no one but Theseus knows
exactly how he passed from this world.
No thunderbolt struck him, no storm of the sea,
when his time had arrived, but some messenger
must have come from the gods above, or the underworld
below may have opened a painless way out
with mercy at last.  Whatever it was,
there was nothing unclean in his passing.  If ever
a man had a wonderful death, it was his.
And if anyone thinks I'm not talking sense,
I can only say, you can have your sense.

© translated from the Greek by Jon Corelis

The companion

Death is always with me, at my elbow
sporting a jaunty beret and a fake French accent;
at dinner, making judicious remarks on the wine;
playing cat's-cradle with cobwebs on the bus;
baffling me at chess with unheard of gambits;
strumming his mournful guitar with a pick of thorn;
and snatching flies that vanish into his fist.

He's almost the only thing I'm going to miss.

© Jon Corelis


I stood with you at your grave,
watching the rain erase your name from the stone.
Your damp face scanned the sky for a trace of your days
as the mournful ghosts huddled round,
sobbing into their shawls of fog.  You laid
a handful of thorns on the mound where the grass grew black.
Your eyes were empty of anger.  Your eyes were empty
of expectation.  Your eyes were empty of fulfillment.

© Jon Corelis


Born:  "Don't WANNA!"  Dying:  "Don't WANNA!"

© Jon Corelis

Nonbeing [from the Greek Anthology]

Kiss my ass, world, after I’m dead and gone.
No reason I should care what’s going on.

© Jon Corelis

Allotted Span

Three score and ten –
and then?

© Jon Corelis



The women tell me, “Man, you’re old;
don’t be so bold.
Look into a mirror
to make it clearer:
your hair
ain’t there.”

But I can’t see what lies
above my eyes.
I do see more reason to play the game,
when Death takes aim.


If wealth with all its money
could make us never die,
I’d give my life to earning,
and then, when Death came by,

I’d pay him and forget him.
But there’s no way to spend
yourself into forever.
So since my life must end,

what good does money do me,
or why then should I mourn
the certainty of dying,
which comes with being born?

My riches are in friendship
and drinking wine at ease,
and moon-lit celebrations
of Love’s solemnities.


Old Gyges had a ton of gold
when he was Asia’s king;
his treasure houses leave me cold,
I don’t grudge him a thing.

What counts with me is scented hair,
rose garlands, and today;
so let’s drink while the weather’s fair:
tomorrow’s far away.

© Jon Corelis


1 comment:

  1. I would like to direct our readers to the following music performances by Jon Corelis:h ttp:// - with some interesting songs made out of poems.