A new poem by Grant Buday

Last Dance with the Minotaur

Pillars of sunlight slant
through bore holes in the stone,
as back and around and deeper
I go as though falling, led
by gravity toward the center,
until a meat-rack stink gloves my nose
and the tunnel opens
upon a pen all dust and dung
and pearly knobbed bones,
with lengths of sinew and tendon
like so much scrap in a rope shop.

In the midst reclines the beast,
almost regal in a boredom
evolved from despair born of a betrayal
deeper than the poisoned wells of Hades.

His chains slither as he stirs.
Bull head, man body,
horns longer than arms,
eyes slow as oxen
undulled now by a flick
of interest in my arrival.
He clears his throat
–a collapse of rocks–
flexes his jaw and exhales
a gust that scuffs dirt
and sets strings of drool swaying
from his snout. An expression
almost fond kindling
when he notes my ball of thread,
unwound to its frayed end,
as though perfectly measured in advance.

Ah, the antics of men.

His long-lashed eyes almost beautiful
in their solemn pondering,
he works thick pink bristled lips
as though to speak but spits instead.
The ball of gob skids in the grit.
Propping himself on his elbow
he toys with the slack meat of his balls.
A black beetle as shiny as a melon seed
spirals up his left horn.

Somewhere above bees mumble roses,
cicadas scrape, the sun pours fire through the vents,
and my sweat stinks of fear.

It was the moment to speak:
Beast–

But he waves his hand for silence.

Sighs and stands,
horned and enormous,
thick neck, shaggy chest,
callused elbows and bruised knees,
cock pendulous between his thighs.

An iron ring shackles his neck.
He takes up the chain
as though the hem of his robe
and with a flick sends a snake
swaying down its length and,
having distracted me,
having diverted my eye,
catches my fingers and draws
me into the rank mat of his chest
and hugs me tight and groans
as if he’s been waiting too long,
too long, for this last dance.