Michael Van Walleghen's Poetry


Such a chariot has Helios, my fathrs father,
Given to me to defend me from my enemies.

Euripedes, Medea

Fascinating the way our dreams
accommodate the muddled here

and now--the phone we answer
in our sleep for instance
before it startles us awake

or just this morning, the cat
killing something in the yard--

a baby rabbit it turns out
squealing that one high note
only nightmares comprehend--

the one where real children
lie dismembered in their beds

as, indeed, I heard it spoken
on the evening news--Medea
of course, was never mentioned

although I understood at once
the way we often do in dreams

that it was she again--disguised
in this last, horrific incarnation
to look like almost anyone


a forgotten second cousin say
whose husband studied neutron

stars, black holes--matters
so quantum mechanically intense
so distant, it would take her

nearly fifteen billion years
of living practically abandoned

in married student housing
with two frenetic, infant sons
and no help at all from anyone

before she understood at last
that everything was hopeless--

that nothing, not even light
not the merest glimmer of it
could ever escape such gravity--

a force so crushing in the end
she could barely lift the knife

and wake us up again, heart
pounding, to some poor rabbit
screaming as the sun comes up

or Medea in her bloody bathrobe
and the chariot drawn by dragons.