D. H. Lawrence was a perfect little Oedipus
Loving his mother who loved him,
Hating his father, coal miner—
Who came back drunk each evening from the pit
And naked in the wash-tub in the parlour
Scrubbed coal-dust from his chest and thighs
Up which the black hair branched like ivy.
Mother and son walked in the churchyard
Deep below which the father hewed
Black glistening minerals in a tunnel.
Happy, the two watched a Red Admiral
Flatten blackwhitescarlet wings
Trembling, against a tombstone. Then the boy ran
And, wrenching from the soil a pale anemone,
Chose her the starriest petal, saying:
“This for Eurydice, my bride,
From Orpheus, her lover-son,
To pledge his truth that when she dies
He’ll follow her through Pluto’s caverns
To the deep hollows of the Earth
And bring her back up to its surface.”
When, ten years later, she lay dying
He travelled down the corridors
Of his own dying, to her cancer.
He threw himself beside her, weeping:
“Mother, whose body was the gateway
Through which I entered life, I go back
Now to that moment you and I
Were Word before we both were World,
To be rejoined in Death forever.”
Just then a bird sang from the sunlight:
“Orpheus! Lorenzo, turn, look back at
Eurydice your mother/bride
Who wills your body as her corpse.”
Turning, he then looked back at her
And saw her eyes that searched for his
And felt her fingers clasping his
And heard her tears plead with him: “Orpheus!
Follow me to this end, our death!”
Thrusting her from him then, he stamped
Her corpse down on the earth and ran
Out in the new day’s sunlight.
Glad!” then that bird his sex sang. “Follow
Me through the forest up the mountain
There, on the uttermost peak, awaken
Frieda/Brunnhilde locked in sleep
Bound down by chains of Intellect
Her husband/father Wotan wrought there!
Orpheus/Lorenzo, now be Siegfried,
Leap over palisades of fire
Awake Brunnhilde, clasp her to you
Flesh to your flesh, both resurrected
One soul one body in one love!”
Leaping the flames then, he embraced her,
There on the uttermost peak. The sun
Clanged in the sky with one wild note.
Their joy spired upward on their laughter—
Pinnacle whence they looked down at
His mother dwindled to her ghost.
They fled then to the Hochgebirge
Where, at an inn beside a lake
Watching the full moon gaze down on them
There, on a balcony, they made love.
“See how the moon among the stars
Mounts its O mirrored on the lake
As I do you,” he cried. “Joined flesh
One with our spirits come full circle!”
His body was her sword, her breasts
His roses when they woke to watch
The sun’s renewing fingers pluck
The strung chords of the lute-shaped lake
Where fishermen drew in their nets
The quivering silver from the water,
Set upon the shore to dry.
Their happiness was like a mirror
Hung in the corner of their room
Where, from their bed, they saw, reflected,
The summer limned in miniature:
The labourer in the vineyard, tending
The vines with arms upraised that bared
His chest all bronze; and in the cornfield
The reaper leaning on his scythe
with arrowing glance that pierced his girl
Sprawled on her back among the sheaves.
But, in the distance, then they saw
Across the lake, a sad procession
Wind between cypresses, black flames,
Following an ox-drawn wagon where
A woman’s corpse lay jolted from
The wooden wheels on the stone road.
Watching, his thoughts sprang to her: “Mother!
Darling in Sunday best, black bonnet,
Black dress, black shoes, and beads all jet,
See, I can lift you up to look
Into this room. Here you will be
One with my marriage—join us here
Where all that we two, son and mother,
In the slum house between the slag heaps,
Looked at by lamplight in the parlour
Pictures of places far forever—
Have all come true—be with us here
Flesh of my flesh and flesh of Frieda
As Frieda, loving me, is yours.”
Last of those mourners, Frieda saw
Her children weeping for their mother.
She hated that he loved his mother.
He hated that she loved her children.
When she embraced him now she saw
His mother gazing through his eyes.
When he embraced her now, he felt
Her children leaping in her womb.
September 21, 1995