After the Ancients by David C. Meyer

After the Ancients

                            For Pat

The fear of death’s the ruin of us,
not death itself, which comes from its twin
birth to make our stories whole,
imposing customary form—
beginning, muddled middle, end—
too late to change how we turn out.

Or is that all, this turning out?
Constantine, unlike us,
baptized at his failing end,
a single blameless hour twinned
with a life of power, the perfect form
to blot all sin and make him whole.

Augustine likewise longed to be whole
and convinced his heart that Woman cast out
is Virtue, the prick a cunning form
of bait contrived to bury us,
a worm in female earth, twin
to the grave, prefiguring our end,

unless we give her up, our ending
fixed with prayers that seize the whole
heart with love, its lustful twin
undone.  But to cast his lover out,
unnamed in his whole book, then tell us
this betrayal’s Good’s best form?

It’s worse than Origen deformed,
his prick excised from its end
with his own knife.  What’s lacking is us
in these Christian lusts, an unholy
way that tears connection out
of love, as if its evil twin

were flesh.  But what if one could twin
with Alcibiades, reformed
by the two-backed beast, filling out
himself in another’s sweet end?
Then love, not death, completes the whole,
for good or ill.  The bond of us

becomes this us of fleshly twins
emerging whole, their final form
a common end: life loved out.


David C. Meyer was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but has lived the great majority of his life in Chicago. He holds a B.A. in theatre, plus two graduate degrees in theology and two in English/writing, including an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He has had over 80 poems published, plus a few essays, and one play.  He’s also had one play produced (with university students), another given a ‘table reading’ at Writers’ Theatre Chicago, and a third given a staged reading at Circle Theatre.  For several years in the ’90s he was on the editorial board of the late, lamented River Oak Review.