Arion

by Luke Kennard

Arion, who created the dithyramb, who invented tragedy,
to whom we owe the fact that to this day fifty satyrs
sing the chorus to our every song, would never have agreed
to board the ship without a retinue, would not have fallen
for a lesser ruse or succumbed to a bag over the head –
and so the ship was renovated at great expense and gilded
and the men went hungry for the figurehead;
Arion’s tyrant patron gave him a servant to tune the lyres:
the formal lyre, the best lyre, the lyre for static evenings
on the deck, a lyre for sleepless nights, a lyre
for every lover and their plausible deniability, vague shapes
of the first letters of their first names, the vision lyre,
a lyre mottled with salt-spray, a practise lyre, the lyre
he never touched, the cursed lyre; each needed to be kept upright,
so when they kidnapped him they had to kidnap
all the lyres too and store them safely on the orlop deck
and pay his servant and pay for wax and resin, lint-free cloths,
his coterie and security guards and hangers-on, so space
and food were as tightly rationed as the seeds of mutiny,
while Arion, incarcerated in his finery, strolled up and down
strumming a pocket lyre and sang, without ceasing,
songs which called them each by their own names like lovers,
relentlessly specific graphic songs about their deaths at sea;
or not, in fact, at sea, but on a beach, where all the men
would be, for some reason, crucified around a statue
of a meekly smiling dolphin – this fucking guy
so when they’d had enough and thought they’d make as much
from selling his lyres, his garments and his trophies
as they’d make from intellectual property, they gave him
two choices: suicide and a proper burial on dry land
or they could just throw him into the water right now,
and Arion asked for his lyre, the best one, and asked
that he be allowed to sing a final song, and it was this one,
and many dolphins surrounded the ship as he played
and while the last note hung in the air he threw himself
backwards over the taffrail, but there was no splash
and then the men saw Arion riding on a dolphin to the clouds,
a hail of glitter stones, a rainbow bursting from its anus
like a laser-beam; it carried him all the way to Cape Tainaron
where he quite forgot to throw it back to sea and so
it perished on the shore and Arion was not even involved
in commissioning or funding the statue to its memory.