"The Blimp Poet"
Blow him up like a balloon. Big, round Orpheus - lighter than air! Belly down, his arms and legs just stumps, like cloves in a ham, his belly out to here, weightless, turning slowly as he ascends... He's large enough to accommodate us in his head. We knock his eyes out from the inside and look down from the empty sockets onto the foothills of hell...
Passing soundless over herds of stumbling dead fresh from the upper world... They don't look up though we call to them. The stain of our shadow on the lake below - lake of blue acid dotted with damned, effervescing but doomed never to corrode...
High above us is the underside of the earth's crust - a dripping tangle of roots and tendrils... Air escapes, a steady leak, from his fundament, propelling Orpheus sedately forward...
[ Through air thick with broadcasts spreading like ripples from a distant tower ] we approach the cauldrons of Dis. Spectacular industry! Evil devours and regurgitates itself in vast kilns and foundries. The pits are dense with devils and damned, cranking it out, hauling it in, wading through fire. Low moan of their work-songs borne up on sulphurous blasts to scorch us where we cower behind the blimp-poet's hollow mask...
We descend in a field of broken glass and nail-parings. Orpheus, deflated, groans, rubbing his eyes. "Where am I? Where are my eyes?"
[ "...this is a gas, the spirit, that is filled with and fills itself with the world; a trip in which the poet goes back and back and back as he goes way out, back into the things of his world, so that that gassy trip will be a trip increasingly into his own experience and into this experience advancing into the very beginnings of time. In the inflation of the dreaming 'I', this beginning, the idea of this beginning, involves an active and searching intellect at work to imagine the beginnings not only of person but of the larger 'I' in Man and the largest consciousness we have of our 'I' in our belonging to the process of the Cosmos."
- by Robert Duncan, from Fictive Certainties, copyright c 1985
By New Directions Publishing Corp. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. ]
[ Composers flock to set Orpheus' story to music.
It's a story in which hearing is the hero
And vision is the villain.
Hence its appeal to those
Who rate the ear
Higher than the eye.
If only he hadn't of looked.
If only he'd a listened.
Q : Which popular song inspired by his story always makes him wince?
A : "Just One Look" (That's all it took) ]