Phaeton drives his car into the sea

“Phaeton drives his car into the sea
from high topped apogee he drives it
he drops it flaming into the sea
o yes he does”

Phaeton drives his father’s favorite car
plunging into the sea, o yeah, drove it he
A boy, scarcely a man, he begged his father’s favor
he drove Apollo’s horses
from the Ocean to the Sky, from underneath the waves
from where the sunlight comes
 
Apollo, no moonshot he
but the god of sun and time who daily
drove the sun from dawn to dusk up one world til noon
and down, to dusk, up the other side of the sky
and down again with scarcely a second to breathe between
climbing against the spinning world first up
then down
 
the boy believed as was his right that he was the son of the god
Apollo had taken him into his home and given him bright raiments​
to wear, called him his boy and set Phaeton on his knee, Clymene’s son
a mortal woman who set Apollo’s heart aflame
 
“Your mother is no liar,” said the god—and anyway, who
can fool a god? What woman can convince immortal gods
that her child is his? 
The gods, whoever and whatever they are
are not stupid, even if they don’t know everything.
And so the god Apollo was sitting at his desk,
who knows how he had time for that
writing the story of the gods because
he was in charge of epic poetry too
and was intent upon finishing this chapter
in the minutes before dawn
when he was bound by the laws of the universe
to skip from sundown in one sea
to sunrise in another.
Gods can do these things! And the boy
(like I said, you could scarcely call him a man)
came to his father, mindful of the things the other kids
said about him, half-mortal, not immortal
strong but not all-powerful
no match for the other kids of gods he had known
all his life—
 
And they knew it and the barbs they flung at him, dipped in poison
tipped with warheads harder than steel
shafts to drive them home, Phaeton hardly ruled his class
so he intended to set things straight.
His father (because that’s what the other gods said, and he
was fine with that)
(and because he loved Clymene, although
he had some other woman here and there
and he told them all he loved them in his way)
 
his father wanted to raise his son in the others’ eyes
even though he knew the boy would never be a god—
it’s not something aspirational, you’ve got to be in it all the way
 
Apollo raised his head, looked at his son
propped the boy’s head in hand—
said, “What do you want?”
 
The flaming car flung itself through guard rails
impending death 4400 horses flames burned the clouds of heaven
scorched the sky black blew black rage
the curtain of heaven burned the sea boiled
crazy men fished for rocks in the sea
and took them home to broil for dinner

Malanghero, Piedmont (Italy)
8-11-2019 1:57 a.m.

 

 

Dennis Formento

Dennis Formento lives in Slidell, Louisiana with his wife, artist and yoga teacher, Patricia Hart.

Formento is the author of Spirit Vessels (FootHills Publishing, 2018), Cineplex (Paper Press, 2014,) Looking for An Out Place (FootHills Publishing, 2010) and a couple handsful of chapbooks and broadsides.Since 2011 he has been organizing local readings in New Orleans and in Covington, Louisiana for 100,000 Poets for Change, a world-wide movement for peace, ecological sustainability, justice and cultural exchange.

 

Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 13:35