Again and Again: Philomel

After Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book VI; Peter Paul Rubens’ “Tereus’ Banquet”; and T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, ll. 97-103.

Tereus’ Banquet, Peter Paul Rubens

How silence roars its rage
In Philomel’s extracted tongue
And Procne’s disbelief:
Their sister silences muting all other sound


The cry of Tereus
Not unlike his utterance
Of satisfaction when he ravaged the one
And rudely stuck the other because
She was his wife

And most silent of all
The innocent child Itys
Whose only sound was
Blood thickening into sauce
And bones cracking at the table:
The boy was served hot
His juices dripping
Onto silver chasers

And so the three
(Besotted, betrayed, bespoiled)
Become birds
Whose thin songs
Cannot redeem the silence
Or forgive the child’s death.