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.