poem15 Apr 2019 08:00 am
Nicolas-Louis-François Gosse Description English: Passage on the river Styx,1819 

Marcie Lynn Tentchoff

I used to make the trip for free,
gave guidance to the young,
the weak, the frightened travelers
who had really no precise idea
where they should go,
or what came next.

It was my calling, my attempt
to lend a touch of reassurance
to the transformative journey
that might mark the end of pain,
and open entry to
a land of otherness.

They loved me then. Their poets spoke
my name so kindly, painted me as handsome,
even godly in my looks, till somewhere
someone thought to send
a thank you gift —
one copper coin.

Then came more coins, my pay some said,
while others spoke of sustenance,
provisions for the newly dead.
What need had I for metal bits?
What need had they
for food or goods?

But their perception of me changed,
a skeleton, a money-grubbing,
clawing fiend, who’d eat their souls
should those who loved them
not afford, or just forget
to leave my fee.

And now I steer my darkened craft,
my oars smeared with the blood and gore
that they imagine I now crave
while falling copper obols fill
the bleached bone sockets of my eyes
like tears.


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