the oracle of delphi writes fortune cookies

This year will bring you cottonwood leaves
fluttering like ash from listing trunks, blight licking
the edges brown. Somewhere Daphne sleeps
in heedless photosynthestate, Apollo having forgotten
where he buried her, which cage of roots cradles
the bow of her ribs. She dreams in xylem, of drinking from
the slagheap seeping below the county’s tanned hide—
rotted gods and the bones of birds, things with teeth that once
cast manticorean shadows. All those layers of Troy,
still smelling of the pyre.

They killed Orpheus again the other day—
mutilated, hanged twice; wrists nailed to telephone pole
by the gods whose ears bled from his singing. Silence wends
through the streets, waiting for him to drag himself down and go on canting
in defiance of his lyre-strung throat, the blood at his fingertips.

You think they might have tired of it by now, the deathless gods,
toying with prey that neither dies nor ceases singing. But divinity
never liked Prometheus’ children,
or an empty altar.

The Sibyl of Cumae long gave up wishing to die, haunting
the bottom of a bottle and whispering ti theleis, as though
there is an answering. Her missing prophecies show up in half-
sentence fragments on bathroom stalls, the world having outlasted
Rome’s falling, but not her. (once there was a light in the darkness
in the form of a man, and the man was the form of the god, and the light
burned you, blinded you. The god came closer and
the light became agony, but you did not look
away, and saw all.

Now Loxias has edges,
lives in a one bedroom walk-up with his sister, the no longer virgin
moon, defiled under her brother’s name. Apothanein thelo,
he whispers. You can’t, Artemis says.
They will never die.

Icarus climbed out of the sea with bones picked clean,
sessile wings crusted to his scapulae. He found Eurydice
there, waiting—Salome-like with her husband’s head in her lap.
They sat together among the driftwood, smoking their last cigarettes.

How long, they ask one another, until the mud blooms green again; how long
until Janus slouches in slow caravan across the road?

by notbecauseofvictories