First king of Corinth I was evil and took
pleasure in tyranny, murdered my guests
and deflowered Merope of the Pleiades,
the virgin nymph who hides her face for
shame she married me. I hated Salmoneus
my brother and seduced Tyro, my niece
to destroy her father and wear his crown
but she sensed my plot and quickly killed
our children I planned to use as pawns.
I betrayed Zeus, telling the River God
Asopus where his daughter Aegina lay
hidden. Greedy Zeus had stolen her for
his lust. In reward a sweet spring poured
from the Corinthian Acropolis but hate’s
arrow flew swiftly enough. Zeus ordered
Thanatos, dark God of the Dead, to chain
me below in Tartarus. The first day I asked
my Keeper how the iron bonds worked
and when he proudly showed me I locked
him fast in his own underworld. Now no
one above met death but bloodthirsty Ares,
God of War, grew furious his slain victims
wouldn’t die in his daily one-sided slaughter.
Thus Zeus gave me back to the King of Hell
and I push this boulder up the same steep
hill. As I reach the crest the stone tilts and
I dive from its path as it rolls back, before
I descend, always slave to the gods’ cruel
spell. And yet didn’t I give man eternal life
for a little while? Who’s God now? Where
are they that ruled more selfishly than I?
Now I am God, my useless effort the way
of life as Everyman’s toil mirrors my task
and takes my name, the awful title Sisyphean.
Endlessly we lift our burden and like royal
mastiffs race our master down to start again,
biding our time, waiting until the gods return
and I catch and chain them to these rocks.
Nels Hanson has worked as a farmer, teacher and contract writer/editor. His stories have appeared in Antioch Review, Texas Review, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review, Montreal Review, and other journals, and stories were nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2010 and 2012. Poems have appeared in Poetry Porch, Atticus Review, Red Booth Review, Meadowlands Review, Emerge Literary Review, Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine, and other magazines, and are in press at Oklahoma Review, Paradise Review, Hoot & Hare Review, Citron Review, and Poetry Porch.