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John Sokol
Just Sing, Orpheus! | The Weight of the World

Just Sing, Orpheus!

Isn't that what your mother told you
When you were a boy; what the Argonauts
Pleaded when a raging sea threatened

To splinter their boat, and, you—too frail
To row—needed only to sing to lower the pitch
Of the waves? "Don't think, Orpheus, just sing!"

Wasn't that Pluto's order, when—as Ovid
Says—your songs wrenched iron tears
From his eyes? You should have held

Those notes, Orpheus. There he was, king
Of the Stygian world, offering Eurydice
Another chance, and you, a waltz,

Straight out of hell (if only you wouldn't
Look back). But, then . . . what was it you said?
"Why? Why?" Hells bells, boy, what were

You thinking? You had the sun, the moon
And the stars; nightingales lived in your throat.
When you sang in the forest, stones rolled

Over and rivers wept. The world was yours
For a song: garlands of bees and haloes of birds,
Swans at your feet and a dark-eyed nymph,

On a bed of moss. Even Sisyphus cupped
His ears at the top of his hill and turned
His back on his rock-and-roll. Cerberus bowed

His heads and buried his bones, Endymion
Awoke from eternal sleep, and Chaos put
His house in order. But, listen! Don't mind

This rant. You've suffered enough!
After all, this isn't so much about you
As it is about me, talking to me.

Besides, you've learned your lesson.
Your head still floats on a river
Of woe, but, now, at last, all you do is sing.

The Weight of the World

Today, on the radio, I heard that the earth weighs
         6 trillion trillion kilograms.
That's a 6 followed by twenty-four zeros, which is
         no googol (10 to the 100th power),
But as second definitions go, close enough. Even
         a googol isn't much
If you compare it to a googolplex, which is the
         number 1 followed by a googol
Of zeroes (10 to the power googol), which might
         be my personal estimate
As to how many blades of grass there are in the world,
         or, maybe, the number of kilograms
That get eaten up in the world-chipper of a black hole,
         where the mass of seven
Suns is condensed to the size of a marble. When
         I was looking in the dictionary
To check my facts about this googol business, I noticed
         that "googoo"
Was the next word defined, and—even though the
         definition (a person who advocates
or works for political reform) has nothing to do
         with what I remembered next—
The sound of it reminded me of the other day, when
         a frantic neighbor up the street
Beat on my door and begged me to run him down to
         St. Francis Hospital.
He had just gotten off his midnight shift at the bakery.
         He didn't have a car, and his wife
had just had a baby. On the way down, I'm running
         lights while this guy I barely know
Is wiping tears from his mustache, slapping the dash,
         running his hands through his hair
And blubbering, "Oh my God! Jesus Mary Joseph!
         A baby girl!
They told me what she weighs. Guess how much?"
         While I keep my eyes on the road,
I lift my head and make my face say, "Tell me."
         "Nine pounds, eight ounces!" he says.
"Do you believe that? Nine. Pounds.
         Eight. Ounces."

Poet's Biography:
John Sokol is a writer and painter living in Akron, OH. His poems have appeared in America, Antigonish Review, The Berkeley Poetry Review, Georgetown Review, New Millennium Writings, The New York Quarterly, and Quarterly West, among others. His short stories have appeared in Akros, Descant, Mindscapes, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Redbook, and other journals. One of his stories has been translated into Danish and another into Russian. His drawings and paintings have been reproduced on more that thirty-five book covers. His chapbook, Kissing the Bees, was the winner of the 1999 Redgreene Press Chapbook Competition.

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