“Hyacinth in Heaven Wondering Why He Had to Be First” by Oli Isaac

Oli Isaac


for he was the first man to love another
—Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus

hyacinth was the first gay man so he was the first gay martyr, 
of course. he was into other stuff that other gay men are into 
like, other men; flowers blossoming 
from your blood as you lay dying; 
being mourned and adored and reinvented. 
what makes a man a martyr if they didn’t choose to die? 
hyacinth and apollo were playing frisbee in the park when it happened
how pathetic. a jealous god  
disguised as the wind blew the frisbee into hyacinth’s head 
hyacinth collapsed with the sun in his eyes
a new wetness at the back of his head 
his life fading cradled in apollo’s arms. 
hyacinth sat in heaven, wondered why 
he was killed when things were just getting good 
was it because he was so beautiful 
even the wind wanted nothing more than to hold him?  
were the gods jealous or just bored? 
an olympian writer’s room
of course the god of wind would be jealous 
when he had to compete with apollo—all corporeal and not-windy. 
have you ever tried to hook up with wind? it’s hard 
too poetic 
hyacinth sat in heaven, desperate
his gift of prophecy now a curse as he saw he was just the first 
of many. saw his name used by secret police in poland in the ’80s 
to round up homosexuals and force them underground
saw the bodies that wouldn’t become flowers.
hyacinth sat in heaven wondering why his death was all people wanted 
to make art about. 
hyacinth, tired of breathing in 
dirt. of being an empty shell 
others can pour themselves into. 
instead paint me in love and alive 
paint me changing bedsheets and arguing over dinner 

paint me throwing tantrums and climbing mountains 
paint me picking flowers and making plans 

paint me still 

from Rattle #75, Spring 2022


Oli Isaac: “Poetry, to me, has always meant possibility. Poems gave my young stuttering mouth a chance to speak; its flow and pace and free form were a green light to thoughts that were too often stuck in my throat. The tragedy of Hyacinth was this idea of the first gay death. It was a great way to speak about all these different things. I wanted to speak to this young, beautiful man, who learned the art of prophecy from the gods but, even then, couldn’t foresee his own death. He couldn’t foresee that all the Renaissance painters would want from him was his death, that he couldn’t foresee the erasure, the epidemic, and the loss—that he was just the first.” (web)

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