Meleagro’s Tale

Apparently too obscure for the English version of Wikipedia, Meleagro was a character in Greek mythology who I believe is mentioned in Paradise Lost. This is one of two pieces that I wrote while in my final year of university, mainly about someone who I knew at that time.

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Meleagro was a boy xylomancer
He knew that he was pledged to a simple branch
Joined like splinters along a vein
Until the timber became ash and smoke
And then he too, would become dust

So he took the branch in his round hands
And rode it to the coast on his horse’s back
Its rippled flanks shuddered to a halt
At the top of a wide cliff face
The sawdust wind stung his eyes

Meleagro clasped the branch
Between the palms of his hands,
And threw it with full force
To the fury of the waves.
He clapped with glee,
And knew that he would live forever

The sun plodded its course
Arcing and arcing across the years,
Meleagro found himself on an island
With one whose eyes were a tremor,
A palm leaf body laid on the beach

They nodded heads
To spend forever on this island,
And Meleagro knew forever would be just that.
The other, in happiness, ran to the shore
And skipped the rippled waves for driftwood
To make fire

Dragged the wood up the beach between trickles of sweat,
Splinters threatening to prick into veins,
But never quite denying that which was known to one.
As the damp branches smouldered under
Smoke and sun,
Meleagro felt his heart sink,
A tumult unleashed within him

He thought as he sank
Of waves of sand moving over him
How he could have broken the wood
Like a young heart, and scattered it

He thought of the flame extinguished
Those eyes, alone above the smoke
Burning, feet sinking in the sand at
The shore’s edge

He thought with sadness
Of the young palm leaf
As he melted into particles
Embraced the shallow loop
Of his quill’s final stroke.

 

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