Homo Labyrintheus

Ana Edith Lopez, "El hueco luminoso del corazón" 13 de marzo 2008

Poem 6 of Tongue Threaded Shuttle

 

spins the magic thread that guides and saves, 

the fateful thread that leads the killer to his prey 

then guides him out to freedom,

lets him escape 

after he carries out his deed. 

 

Double-edged thread 

spun by the dead man’s sister, 

who provides the clue to find the marked man 

asleep in his labyrinth, 

the sword to slay him, 

and the thread to guide the killer to the exit. 

 

She gives him a ball of fleece thread 

to unwind from the entrance 

through the convoluted passageways, 

to the center of the maze,

where he finds her brother, 

an easy target for his murderous intent, 

and after slaying him, 

rewinds the red thread back to the exit 

and to the sister’s waiting arms. 

 

In exchange for clue and thread, 

he had promised 

to wed the princess wench, 

but instead, he abandons her 

while she sleeps on the Isle of Naxos, 

and goes back to his land a hero, 

for having rescued 

the young Athenian men and maidens 

who had in the labyrinth 

awaited to be devoured 

by Ariadne’s half-man half-bull 

hybrid brother. 

 

They were the yearly war tribute 

her father, King of Crete, 

had exacted from the Athenians.  

 

Theseus had volunteered to slay the monster 

and rescue his countrymen, 

and, succeeding, 

becomes an Ionian founding hero. 

 

But what happens to faithless Ariadne 

when the object of her lust 

abandons her 

while she sleeps alone in Naxos? 

 

Some say that Dionysus rescues and marries her. 

Others whisper that, following the examples 

of Arachne, Erigone, 

and other weaving goddesses, 

she hangs her wretched spite 

from the branches of a tree. 

 

And why would Minos, King of Crete, 

want to keep his stepson 

locked in the prison built by Daedalus? 

Could it be he wishes to conceal 

the fruit of his wife’s betrayal,

the undeniable proof that she cuckolded him, 

not with a mortal or a god, 

but with a bull, 

a snow-white bull of extraordinary beauty 

Poseidon sent forth from the sea? 

 

Minos asks Poseidon to send him the sea bull 

that will certify him worthy of the Cretan throne, 

but, attempting to deceive the god,

sacrifices in his honor an ordinary bull, 

instead of the snow-white gift from the sea 

he wants to keep for his herd. 

 

Poseidon takes revenge 

and causes Pasiphae, Minos’s wife, 

to develop an uncontrollable lust 

for the handsome bull of the splendid horns. 

 

She begs Daedalus to help her satisfy her passion, 

and he builds for her a hollow wooden cow 

disguised with the pelt of a live one 

to deceive the bull 

into engaging in amorous intercourse 

with the lascivious queen who hides inside. 

 

When her son Asterion is born 

with the body of a man,

the head of a bull, 

the destiny of a star,

they call him Minotaurus 

and ask the royal architect 

to build a winding, convoluted, prison 

to hide the hybrid fruit of her betrayal. 

 

The half-man, half-animal monster 

imprisoned in the center of the labyrinth 

is testament to the queen’s lust 

for life’s darker powers 

and to her betrayal of the king,

but the stud bull that, 

deceived by the sight 

of a healthy heifer grazing in a pasture, 

fathered the Bull-man 

would not have tempted Pasiphae 

had Minos sacrificed it to Poseidon, 

and, by honoring his promise to the god,

internalized the virile prowess of the bull. 

 

But, protecting the honor of the ruler 

is only the expedient raison d’état,

for, the unconfessed motive 

for ensconcing Asterion, 

is his very nature

and our fear of the other, 

the foreigner, the immigrant, 

the barbarian who speaks words 

we do not comprehend,  

the mestizo, the mulatto, the half-breed, 

all those of mixed bloods 

or uncommon yearnings in our midst,

the poet, the mystic, the visionary, the madman,

we dare not look in the eye, 

for we push back into the deepest recesses 

the ctonic force, 

the unresolved conflict, 

the formless restlessness, 

the desire we dare not utter, 

the fear of coming face to face 

with what we sense and long for, 

but cannot name,

the nostalgia for all the darkness we bury 

in the bottom of our minds’ oceans, 

and all the light that would crown us gods 

if we dared look in the distant galaxies of our hearts. 

 

With the Minotaurus locked in the sacred mandala,

the Bull-man’s pulsing heart rises, 

as Helios in the firmament,

to the realm of spirit, 

and, except for Ariadne’s fratricide, 

Minos might have learned to walk 

the winding pathways of his labyrinth

to reach its mysterious center, 

to become the Sol King,

with no need of schemes, 

betrayals, 

foreign assassins, 

winding prisons, 

snow-white studs,

or double-edged red threads.

© 2019 by Lilvia Soto