Kharon by Alexander Livtochekno

Kharon by Alexander Livtochekno

I hold coins in my pocket, refuse to drop them
into Charon’s rawbone hand;
I hold the gifts of my passage under my cloak
back from this boatman’s demand.

The hand, scrubbed white by time and tale
empty like a mouth that forgot its prayer
still waits for the change in my pocket:
yes, the hand waits for the leftovers of my life,
yawning open like a vacant ribcage,
knowing what I could not take with me.
But I still hold the change in my pocket.

No one builds a bridge over the Styx,
and no one arches a proffered back over that black river
to allow foot and wheel to wage across:
no one conquers Charon
and his waiting, hungry hand.
But I still hold the change in my pocket.

From beneath the hood of my cloak
I see my lovely psychopomp standing in the boat:
I see that fire-haired, ocean-eyed brilliant man
who dropped the pain in his chest in loose bags of gold into the river.
Charon sneers: here’s another who’s conquered him.
No little pittance of coins for him that time.
And I still hold the change in my pocket.

I stand on the bank and peer further,
pulling back the curtain of mist with my eyes:
I part the brume veil around this river
to find more rebels standing on the other side,
rebels who broke through the webbed bony finger wall of the boatman.
The tallest of them shines, with rubies embedded
like nail prints in his wrists.
Charon curses us all under his breath.
And I still hold the change in my pocket.

I turn scarlet from the fever of the revelations,
giddy and carmine from the lick of flames now
rising up beneath my cloak and behind the red door in my chest:
my red door, still healing its busted latches and cracked open hinges.
My psychopomp died trying to fix the hinges of his own door,
and the rebels across the river display their own busted hinges
and cracked locks welded back into place.
They all stand in defiance of the bony hand,
stand quietly in their insolence to the white-palmed thief
who set up camp under the nose of the gods
when their backs were turned.
And I still hold the change in my pocket.

So fuck you, Charon, for I will cross another way;
away with you, ghastly Boatman: for the other side awaits.
And I will still have the change in my pocket.

Written 4/18/11
© 2011 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This week’s prompt over at We Write Poems instructed us to come up with a prompt, and then write a poem for it.

First, I’ll explain my prompt: parallelism. You see this as a frequent device in the Book of Psalms in the Hebrew Bible. Parallelism is “a kind of rhyme, in which an idea is developed by the use of repetition”. There are two types of parallelism present in the Psalms: synonymous parallelism, which is two lines expressing the same idea, and antithetic parallelism, which involves two lines expressing opposite ideas.

Here is an example from Psalm 27 of synonymous parallelism: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” And example of antithetic parallelism happens in Psalm 1: “The LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

So my prompt was to write a poem using one, or both, or these methods of parallelism. I also borrowed a little from Cee Lo Green for this poem. If you know the song, you probably recognize a little of this in the poem. If not, here are the lyrics.

Stumble It!
Stumble It!


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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
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12 Responses to Change

  1. margo roby says:

    There is so much in this poem to love. While the second stanza is my favourite stanza for its imagery, I am soon caught up in the story, and, finally, that is what holds me.

  2. pamelasayers says:

    Nicole, as always your imagery and writing is so eloquent. A wonderful piece of writing. I love the prompt idea as well.


  3. 1sojournal says:

    I got lost in the story and forgot to really check for the prompt. I did like the echo of that last line in each stanza, the holding back that forces the reader onward to find what this rebellion and non compliance might incur. Although I like and agree with the sentiment in the final stanza, the abrupt change in language almost spoiled it for me.


  4. That really takes one to the other side! I liked the repitition – it sounded like a spell or curse.

  5. Yousei Hime says:

    I experimented with parallelism years ago. I found it rather tricky, but yours is a delightful tale (just love the attitude).

  6. Tilly Bud says:

    A good prompt and poem. I loved this line: ’empty like a mouth that forgot its prayer’

  7. wayne says:

    nicely done….with good prompt….i also like line empty like …….

  8. neil reid says:

    Thank you Nicole for suggesting and demonstrating this prompt idea. I rather like it a lot. (I worry some I might have to “think” too much to produce the result – but just some practice I suppose!) (a silly concern) 🙂

    It is “form” yet also wide open in the specifics. (My cup of tea.) And I like the idea of the kind of tension (energy) that is possible by this kind of internal phrasing relationship. Good, good. And your poem here feels all the more colorful to me because of that – more illuminated. Look forward to using this idea in a poem.

    And oddly (or maybe not) I’ve just been reading Gilgamesh, and there’s a certain sensibility of connection between the poetic styles I think (the Stephen Mitchell translation anyway).

    Thanks Nicole!

  9. Mr. Walker says:

    Nicole, what a fascinating prompt idea, a very different kind of repetition. I look forward to giving it a try.


  10. lolamouse says:

    A fascinating story-drew me right in! And kudos to you for weaving together parallelism, mythology, and Ce Lo Green! Of course, now I imagine the boatman as a fat man in a garish Pink Suit!

  11. ms pie says:

    so glad to have passed by WWP to catch yr post and this week’s prompt… with regards to psalms, psalm 27 is a fav of mine… one of the first one’s i learned by heart… to get me through those dark days… i like this free form of parallelism… the idea/repetitive phrase of a coin in yr pocket makes me think of our souls/salvation… and that fire-haired guy… hmmmm… pain, loose bags of gold in a river… baptism… a revelation-esque type and shadows…. did you ever see that movie with robin williams where he goes to rescue his wife (in a boat as well) who committed suicide and died… it is an interesting movie and can’t help but to see that here… well, sorta… it’s the boat and your everyday characters enfused and captured… psychopomp and rebels the very best part…. a river we all must cross… is that part of why did the chicken cross the road…to get to the other side… tongue and cheek, reality sifts us as wheat…. thank you nicole…

  12. vivinfrance says:

    I don’t know how I missed this one first time round, so I’m glad Neil gave us the link. I think it will be a fascinating experience to try out your parallelism prompt, but very difficult, now that I’ve read your superb example.

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