Oedipus, Rex by Rayfield A. Waller

Oedipus, Rex


I’m king wherever I am—king even of this broad-chested sea.
I hear my mother behind me take each proud breath,
As I retreat from creeping tides. Not a hope remains. She
Whispers my triumphs. Yes, nothing left to attain but death,
The outcome of horrors I could count and name.

O, my mother, my queen, is most immediate to my fame,
Which stalks me like a beggar, this title she’s gifted her son
That’s honey on her tongue while I curse my name—
A gilded goiter, a bloody crown, and a canker, all but done.
I turn to touch her precious hand that wove my sin.


My merest word sets men racing through these halls when
I but speak a whim from my throne or seek terrible service of
Any with stomach, with spleen enough to do as I say again—
Another sacrifice, a search of lambs’ entrails to ask what love
Demands I pay for power, for a crown and sword held steady.

Mother sleeps. She’s no barrier now. My smith stands ready
As I bid him burn out the orbits of my eyes; he’s horrified.
I seize the red-hot tong from his startled grasp, I’ll not hide,
I’ll do the deed myself. I do not fear the coming dark, nor hell,
For I am in darkness already—and know it well.

Rayfield A. Waller. Detroit, Michigan, United States. Waller is a poet, cultural critic, labor activist, and political journalist who is a professor of literature, history, and the social sciences at Wayne State University and Wayne County Community College in the postindustrial city of Detroit, Michigan.

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