“Sisyphus” by Judy Barisonzi

Judy Barisonzi


After awhile, I no longer remembered
why I was being punished, and after that
I was not sure it was punishment at all. There was enough
to do with checking the weather each morning,
selecting the right clothing—waterproof for rain,
my slatted sun hat for bright afternoons, a heavy shawl
pinned round my shoulders on frosty mornings. Then a bite
to eat, choices there too, oat cakes or bread, honey
or marmalade, so many decisions
before starting the work of the day. And each day
was different. There were small blue flowers
breaking through the cracks when the weather warmed,
huge dusty turtles I had to swerve to avoid,
the occasional passerby, too far for conversation,
but close enough to study the new styles
of hat and jacket, each one’s way of walking,
a shuffling gait, a jaunty step. And then
the rock itself was never the same. My fingers
would penetrate encrustations, caress
slopes worn smooth as powdered skin,
its touch remembered these many years,
dimly remembered, like morning rain
find sparking grains that embedded themselves
in tiny dimples. But always, behind the flux,
keeping confusion in check, that constant cycle,
that slow plod upward, that weight against my chest,
measuring my muscles, my soul, inevitably followed
by a wild mad dash to the bottom, the moment
of joy, of mad release. I was often overwhelmed
by the complexity of it all, and only rarely
had a recollection of something
I had meant to do, a time when I had said
When I reach the top, then … but I could not find
anywhere, in my mind, what I had intended.

from Rattle #23, Spring 2005


Judy Barisonzi: “I’ve written poetry, off and on, ever since I was a teenager, but it was not until well into adult life that I grew into being a poet. Perhaps moving from the East Coast to Wisconsin, and becoming intimate with trees, marshes, and lakes, had something to do with it. In any case, now that I’m nearing sixty, I think I’m at last beginning to gain some faint understanding of what poetry is all about. Ask me again when I’m eighty.”

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