Three Poems

Poetry / Oliver de la Paz

:: Labyrinth 79 ::

The boy in the labyrinth imagines he is an orphan. He imagines the surface dwellers exist within a compass of their lives. In the world above, internal needles steer them towards a location which they perceive is a status of the mind. The mind, pliable. An idea splits from the center like veiny vectors on the underside of a leaf. The boy pretends to turn a leaf over. Dew drips into the creases of his hand. His loneliness is an incorrigible thing. Things seem more brutish and sheer. Above, the people walk out of doors. Their minds dwell within their own possibilities. The sunlight fills their irises leaving the boy lonelier still.


:: Labyrinth 82 ::

The boy in the labyrinth feels water run beneath him. He cannot speak of what he feels, only that the syntax of the water fills his elastic memory up to his eyes—events in relation to the failure of his voice, having wandered silently for so long. And in the chill, the dark thickens into the thickest velvet. The pitch of it, soft, and the light slosh of his feet in the water urges him forward. The dark is the texture of fur and the curtain slides back. He is in the theater of his skull. And in the theater of his skull, the half-bull snorts its sonata. Day after idiomatic day passes. The bull-man’s hum charges ahead of the wave inside the boy’s brain. Everything the boy feels is intolerable and persists.


:: Labyrinth 83 ::

The boy in the labyrinth understands the bull’s persistence. Talk to me, he thinks. He never hears an answer. Nothing fills the grammar he desires except the labyrinth’s elaborate hoaxes. A door opens into a wall. The wall conceals another wall. Beyond that, spent flowers in need of deadheading in some place above. A chasm. A river. A rudderless song about the afterlife. About time. To the boy, the surface world is so spent. He is tired of dreams and the red string’s dye sluiced through his hands. The stage of the boy’s mind is devised into lobes of meaning. None of which he can see. None of which the beast sees unless he were to eat the boy. An intolerable end, the boy thinks. One more silence. One more closed closet door.



From the writer

:: Account ::

I started writing these prose poems in 2012, shortly after my oldest child was diagnosed to be on the autistic spectrum. Much of the initial writings were my attempts at trying to understand his sensory processing issues—how many of his senses were extremely heightened. Somehow I thought of the Theseus/Minotaur myth. How the feeling of being lost in a vast maze must be similar to what my son must be feeling as he attempts to filter what’s happening in the world.

I’ve written about 100 of these little prose vignettes, so in a way, I’ve constructed my own labyrinth. In many ways this sequence has devoured me as the Minotaur had famously devoured so many young. I tend to work in long sequences, mostly because it’s far more difficult working from nothing than having materials at the ready.

For this sequence, I chose to have a refrain/form within the opening sentence of each piece. Generally (though there are exceptions) the first sentence of a piece is a direct response to the last line of the piece that preceded it. I wanted to create a big panorama. Rather than having the labyrinth wind around haphazardly, I imagined it coiling in concentric circles. At the center of all the circles is the Minotaur and the Minotaur’s nest.

I haven’t decided whether the boy is Theseus, an unnamed sacrifice, or someone who will find his own way. I suppose those decisions will come as I continue to write. I am pretty sure, however, that I’m not finished writing about the boy and the Minotaur.


Oliver de la Paz is the author of four books of poetry: Names Above Houses (Southern Illinois University Press, 2001), Furious Lullaby (Southern Illinois University Press, 2007), Requiem for the Orchard (University of Akron Press, 2010), and Post Subject: A Fable (University of Akron Press, 2014). He co-edited A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poems (University of Akron Press, 2012), and co-chairs Kundiman’s advisory board. He teaches in the MFA program at Western Washington University.