Poetry from Christopher Bernard


Minoan bowl depicting the Minotaur, from www.nem.tku.edu.tw

Minoan bowl depicting the Minotaur, from www.nem.tku.edu.tw


The Minotaur Speaks

By Christopher Bernard

In the darkness a line glimmers~
like a piece of spider silk, a tendril of its web~
quivers and pulls
around another corner, 
then disappears in the gloom,
trembling in the rancid darkness, hot 
and stale as a cellar,
binding the random corners of my chaotic home.

At one end clings the man the gods have sent to kill me~
(we’ll see about that!)~but the thread’s other end
winds and coils and shines,
leading . . . where? 

Oh, farther into the maze where father Minos left me,
the bestial child his whore of a wife, my mother Pasiphaë,
dropped nine months after coupling with the Thracian bull
whose member she had coveted~

mating monster with monster,
how did they expect to escape having a monster for their offspring!

And so Minos threw me into this foul place,
scrawled into confusion like a ball of tangled yarn,
no one can find a way out of, no matter how brave or cunning,
a darkness I explore to find but deeper darkness,
and there left me, to feed on sacrificial virgins,
the beautiful, pure-skinned, untouched 
children of the Greeks.

I trip over their bones as I bang from wall to wall,
lost, hungry, bellowing in the dark,
still hearing the echoes of the weeping that come 
from the maze’s mouth, where the others cower, crowd, and wait
their turn in the labyrinth, their death duel with the Minotaur.

The line tugs. Where does it go? It slackens again~who bound it
to the one Greek they promised would kill that abortion, 
the bull-man~

as if I had no soul, no mind, no heart, no memory
of happiness under the sun’s gaze, and only howl and snort,
bucking my horns on the rocks in an agony of memory
of those few weeks I knew the bright flash 
of day.

It tugs again, and thrums~he is looking for me, this Theseus,
with his smooth face, his eyes shining with bald terror,
imagining me~

one hand trembling on the rock face, the other
sweating at the end of the thread. 
The thread! it may lead 
back to the maze’s entrance, escape 
out of this stinking darkness into the air and sun,

the immensity of light and breath of cloud and the sweet moon,
the high sky above me~could it? 

Of course, it could! 
a lover?

someone who loves Theseus (even my mother didn’t love me!)

gave him, of the thread,
one end. 
And the other
she holds, waiting for him, 
standing patiently 
at the dark hole where she saw him disappear,
frightened and hopeful, 
feeling each quiver and jerk with fear, 

to keep her dearest love from being killed and eaten by me. 

What if I follow the line 
it shows, so white, in the darkness?

Lord sun above me, beyond this mantle of rock~
if I follow the thread, will it lead me back up to the flowery air 
and the sighing 
of the sea, 
back to light and life and even
a hope for love 
under the stars, 
back to the heaven called day?

It slackens.
Grab it, now, beast! 
It is so light~so frail~
how could anything so fragile be a promise a beast could believe,
a hope in this slaughterhouse, this fist of stench and weeping~
my hope?

I’ll let you guide me, 
one way to my death
at the hands of Theseus, the other to my life 
in a girl’s hands, bright with day.

Lead me, thread. And do not break 
until I am dead 
or free.


Christopher Bernard is a poet, novelist, essayist, photographer and filmmaker living in San Francisco. He is author of the novel A Spy in the Ruins, the short-story collection In the American Night, and The Rose Shipwreck: Poems and Photographs. He is also co-editor of the webzine Caveat Lector.