Tragedy is trying to live well. -- Martha Nussbaum
Jocasta and Laius exposed their child.
She sang up the mountain. They wept back down.
They'd re-gifted Fate to the cold and wild.
The boy would die blameless; they could grow old.
Prudent, considering what was foretold.
Rescued, raised well, backstory still unheard,
Oedipus sued his future and was served
the same indictment his parents received.
He felt their dread, and must have felt aggrieved:
forsaken by all his makers; ill-used
by justice. Something in him yet refused,
while Fate's victim, to be its abettor.
He lived-- and not as if the truth weren't known.
Could truth be changed? He'd flee and be better
than what the Sybil's tongue had carved in stone.
Condemned by vision, he chose that blindness
that swaddles princes in shepherds' kindness.
So parents (exhausted, pacing, humming)
enchant the sleeping ones through sleepless nights--
knowing well the world, knowing what's coming.
They're here, and new: someone has to hold them.
Describe the prizes for winnable fights;
choose a few messages that get told them.
Likewise wakeful, the childless hold and rock
not little lives they've made-- the lives they've got.
They can be new, they say. Can change. Be taught.
And life can still be life, without a why.
These should be the words of a lullaby.
Listen: the strains of it are on the air.
Not hope. A mere objection to despair.
This impertinence gives breath to all song:
to cavil, the oracles could be wrong;
to hold out, every vote the jury takes.
We clutch at doubt. Some call the clutching, "faith."
We sing, "Let's see. Let the Furies' voices
thunder in and drown out all our choices."