Sisyphus Reimagined

Sisyphus is no longer the King of Ephyra. After being condemned by the Gods for his trickery and deceitfulness, he is banished for his hubris. As punishment, Sisyphus is made to push a large boulder to the top of a hill. Once the boulder reaches the hill’s peak it rolls back down under its own weight. Complete this task once? Manageable, maybe. Complete this task for all of eternity? Not so much.

The myth of Sisyphus is a harsh reminder that times can be trying and seemingly endless. In his poem “Sisyphus,” Elmaola breaks off from this traditional trope, and instead seeks out the good that is hidden in Sisyphus’ task. “For it is only when I fail that I am free,” Elmaola writes. Elmaola’s visceral imagery and use of the first person give the reader front row seats for this great piece. Read “Sisyphus” below.

Sisyphus

Mohamed Elmaola

This massive stone
Leaves my palms dried like palm leaves.
So calloused and jagged.

My heels seek inertia.
Gasping for secure dirt like a javelin toss.
Leg fibers long for lasting fortitude.

My back aches.
Pain pulsates as I plead like a preacher.
Ammonia and iron droplets glaze my torso.

I thought I had charm.
I thought I was king.
I thought I could chain fate.

O my ego!
How I once held you like a firstborn,
And now deny you like a bastard.

Yet despite the stone Death, himself, destined to descend.
It is not the weight alone that summons the most sweat.
But the moment before it falls that fuels my feeble fingers.

She is that moment,
Between sheer strength
And irrevocable devastation.

She is that moment
That requires each knuckled muscle.
Each stressed vessel.

She is that moment
In which I am eternally devoted,
In which I am eternally doubtful.

She is that moment
That preludes a sorrowful symphony.
That warns my eventual mourning.

She is that moment,
That painfully liberates me.
For it is only when I fail that I am free.

She is that moment,
That binds me to the push of an inching boulder,
A stone Death, himself, destined to descend!

She is that moment,
That unconquerable moment,
That I pray I feel before I fall.

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