Last Child of Oedipus goes Childless

Rebecca Rustin

King Creon forbids that Polyneices, brother of Antigone and Ismene, be granted proper burial. The body lies exposed on the battlefield. Antigone, against Ismene’s advice, buries him. Creon condemns Antigone to a cave where she hangs herself. Haemon, Creon’s son and Antigone’s betrothed, finds her, kills himself with his sword, and dies with her in his arms. – Antigone, by Sophocles  

Many say Ismene
Stood for days at the mouth
Of the cave

Where Antigone
Lay with Haemon
Her champion
Their love
Lost to rule of

They say Ismene held
A mason’s trowel
Though whether
She hoped to
Dig something up
Or smooth something
No one
Could say
She’d go
Down to the
Watching place
See celebrity
Celebrity sisters
Unite before
A violent ex
Hesitated then
Turned away
Only one soldier of
Theseus could hold
Her against a tree
At the maenad bash
She brandished her
Thyrsus unbacchicly
At the gathering
Place she picked
The kind of beans
Said contained
The souls of the dead
Did she sleep
In a bower pricked
With rosemary
Did she stumble
As she wandered
There was a fallen
Spruce she liked
To balance on
A particular
Point in the sky
To look into
As she told
Her father and
She wore sequined
Dolce e Gabbana
Jumpsuits with
White boots and a long face
Her brother as ever
A cipher
A filing away
Of secrets  A
Gateway to
Newer forms
Of disaster
Whom Antigone
Loved but Ismene
Could not
His hand on the back
Of her neck  Her
Knees on the grass

Rebecca Rustin is a freelance writer and translator in Montreal, QC, with poems in Prism and Pioneertown.

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