Stewart Michael Berg

The Inner Being of Phineus of Aethiopia
                        ‘…This said; where Phineus turn’d to shun the shield
                        Full in his face the staring head he held;
                        As here and there he strove to turn aside,
                        The wonder wrought, the man was petrify’d.’
                                    Ovid: Metamorpheses, Book V
The halls of the proud and boastful,
So quickly prepared for the coastal,
So welcome the son of god;
The daughter alive, the serpent dead,
And in a bag, the dreadful head,
But like the wall beneath the fly,
How I, the both, wish for the death of the spy.
Though more kinly than kingly,
The pledged uncle was still there,
And though the claiming trail I could not bear,
I cannot ignore this anachronistic affair;
For what can the hero presume?
That I shall ignore the betrothal room?
Or perhaps he only worries for the bed.
I hear the cheers,
Even the chewing of the feast,
The palates ticking like counting clocks
Though quicker, quicker,
Running like angels’ feet,
And my certain, internal ticker
Says time and I cannot retreat;
There will not be time in my love song
For moments short of moments long,
To plot an action
And act a plot,
I must instead attack with little thought.
I stammer upon the festivity,
“I have come to retake my promised bride
From the demands of this pyrite pool
Whose only claim to wed is that Cetus be a proper maidenhead;
I shall retain my vowed,
And her former promise shall be spoken,
For I have here arrived unbroken.”
“Unbroken but broke,”
My brother does reply,
“For you are intact but worth hardly half;
When, my brother, you ignored my legacy full
And abandoned her to jealous wrath,
How I knew that lost and leaver would never be made whole.
“This man, our savior, my guest,
Did not usurp your desired veil,
Nor did a fickle father’s favor
Set alight this fire in your breast;
You, my cowardly brother,
With a shudder,
Murdered your own incest;
When the leviathan for my daughter came,
You alone accepted impotence,
And for heavenly sentence,
I bestow upon you the same.”
Like fire within a fire,
How I am so overwhelmed,
And as one wave forces another wave,
One hand grips another hand
And forces it to stand,
Stand and be brave;
I hurl my guided spear,
Indiscriminate of all blood but mine
(Though mine did seem to so recently disappear),
But I pierce only instigation, an empty chair,
Yet from that air arises damnation.
The hero retaliates, kills another
While the hall echoes for even the blood of my brother;
All are dying
As the floor is quickly muddy with the blood of the fighting,
And then puddles are made
Of the innocent yet unafraid
(Certainly, his wings were beating a wind
And thereby murderously altered my javelin);
And then all is bloodless and stone.
A monster is a monster only after monstrosity,
And what an atrocity I now seem to me,
For she,
As if to dilute it all, did stay
To cry into the puddles on her jubilant day.
“End it, Perseus,” I say,
“Produce the beheaded Gorgon and freeze my heart,
Turn me into your lifelike art;
And Cepheus, if still here and still no longer dear,
Listen to a brother cry
That our lifelong link was broken, wedged, and pried;
I was unjust,
And hear me, Andromeda,
I was unjust,
And look, dear bride, upon my frozen face
And see my forever despair in this captured stare,
And if you venture near,
See my fixed tear,
And if a soul may truly repent and be resent,
You will, perhaps, someday finish its descent…”
Stewart Michael Berg is a recent graduate of Pacific Lutheran University living in Seattle.   

About Copperfield

Since 2000, The Copperfield Review has been a leading market for short historical fiction. Copperfield was named one of the top sites for new writers by Writer's Digest and it is the winner of the Books and Authors Award for Literary Excellence. We publish short historical fiction as well as history-based nonfiction, poetry, reviews, and interviews.
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