White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
WHITE WHALE REVIEW
CHRISTOPHER SITEMAN
Chris Siteman was born in Boston and has lived in the area most of his life. He has worked extensively in the trades, holding positions as a bouncer, ditch-digger, landscaper, chimney sweep, waiter, mason tender, roofer and carpenter, as well as doing a stint as a pre-rigger in Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Circus. He has traveled widely in the United States, Europe and beyond. In the spring of ‘03, he received his B.A. in History & Literature from Suffolk University, where he now teaches. In May of ‘07, Chris graduated with an M.F.A. from Emerson College. His work has most recently appeared in Fringe and Salamander.
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Christopher Siteman

From CRUSHED SONNETS—

A CROWN FOR THE KINGDOM OF THE DEAD

 

               Only the ghost of Great Ajax, Son of Telamon,

               kept his distance, blazing with anger at me still

                                                                                  –Homer, The Odyssey

 

 

* * *

In the 7th circle, an old carpenter with ten thumbs worth of knotted knuckles scrapes his face

across blackened brimstone floor as he crawls forth to earn a working wage. Awoken from a

dream of seven poems he cannot remember, but words bite the flesh of his tongue, gold alligator

clips wired to a running car battery: every day lasts an eternity building stanzas of fire for Minos

to edit full of the dead. Yet who stands there forcing his fingers inside the gash in his chest,

trying to speak with crow-pecked eyes? One of the underworld’s spiteful suicides—

 

* * *

A child, Ajax, in premonitory visions, foresaw his suicide & remembered former lives. Not only

the Greek warrior, born over & again, he lived keeper as well as kept. Here, he destroyed. There,

he sold insurance: Marlowe, not Shakespeare; Oppenheimer, not Einstein; Teddy, not JFK.

Whispering Achilles’ name, hearing Odysseus’ laughter in the dark, Ajax never escapes

Athena’s wrath. Plagued by an eight-armed god of self-strangulation, he tears at his own throat

for spite. His shame resounds off the world, a funeral march tuned mute dirge, turned ghost.


Christopher Siteman

* * *

Even in death, words haunt me. I trace his name, a fire in the dust, while the blind prophet speaks

a wolf in my ears: Beware the Greek bearing gifts. Hector’s wicked bronze unzips mind & spirit

in the end. Beware shifting Trojan sands. Look— Beneath your feet you will pry open a door to

the kingdom of the dead. The stink of shit & blood wavers off a herd of sheep strung & stretched

from my tent poles, wet hides, intestines & viscera. Atop fourteen spears, lips peel back,

exposing yellow teeth, blacked gums. Heads like cantaloupes fuzzed white with mold, their

pomegranate eyes stare from bitter darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © Christopher Siteman. White Whale Review, issue 1.1

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