“Sisyphus Commemorates Labor Day” (Poem & Paintings by John Sokol)

Departure

SISYPHUS COMMEMORATES LABOR DAY

Today’s a holiday: not that I have it off,
or get time-and-a-half or anything,
but I do have a few minutes
to scribble some thoughts.

In the past, during times like this,
I’ve tried to get Ixion’s spin on the situation,
but he’s no help, nor is Tantalus,
who’s always grasping for straws.

I don’t even know why I confide in them.
They, too, are masters and slaves
of the same-old-same-old.

But I’ve been up this hill before. I know all the scars,
pits and protrusions of this pet rock I’m sitting on.
It’s my life. Up, I push. Down, it rolls.

And it’s all so pointless.
I’d rather be stamping out license plates,
or picking up trash on some highway to heaven.

All I ever get from Ixion and Tantalus
is “misery loves company.” When they put on their
woe-is-me faces and start to giggle, I yell over,
‘remember: “one man’s floor is another man’s
ceiling.”’ And they yell back, “it’s the other
way around, stupid.”

But I remember the day this whole place shut down.
It was the day Orpheus came down to fetch Eurydice.
He played his lyre for Pluto, and that old man
started crying like a baby. Persephone plied Orpheus
with pomegranate vodka and eau-de-Lethe chasers.
The birds went silent, and the rivers stood still.
No one spoke, and picket signs went up everywhere.

It didn’t last long, though. C’est la vie, et c’est l’enfer,
as everyone here likes to say.
Most days life seems pretty good. After all,
we’re most comfortable with what we know,
and what we know, is: things could always be worse.
Here, we’re just grunts for the absurd, proletariats of the futile.
And now, we have to get back to it,
because, somehow, there must be
a purpose to what we do.

John Sokol writes and paints in Akron, OH. His paintings and drawings are included in many public and private collections, 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 and other journals. His chapbook, Kissing the Bees, won the 1999 Redgreene Press Chapbook Competition. In the Summer of Cancer, a full collection of his poetry, and The Problem with Relativity (short stories) are his latest books.

On the Road Perilous

Transformation of Actaeon into a Stag

Guardian

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