Orestes and Electra, Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Iron-wort, primrose, hawthorn and cloudy water
hot tea bleeds into her pale, clay pot.
Electra in the peasant’s hut
longs for a return to palace life
the trade of dirt for marble under foot
rough hemp for light flax on her back
the taste of soft foie gras, honeyed grasshopper
a change from beans and rice and beans again
when she is interrupted by the task
of matricide, aside her brother.

Her father, morally a leaky sack already
is unstitched by spouse
with deep cuts and a hemorrhaging heart
that had skipped unscathed
through entire fields of warfare
only for its strong pulse to flood now
with deft, limestone-sharpened knives.
His wife then drops the blades
into tidal waters, where they rust
into relics.

The grown children must avenge the deeds
of mother against father, the bloodlust
and betrayal. They thrust a sword
clean into the smooth flesh of her neck –
this haven where their infant heads sought rest
and she had felt their love most keenly.
The tripled sins upon sins now dance
like furies around their bloodstained feet
buzz endlessly about their ears
run like cancerous regret throughout their veins.

While summer’s heat is long spent
one last cicada sings from deep within the pines tonight
rubbing its veined wings more slowly
than it has ever done – sotto voce
like a clock unwinding.