Reframing the Labyrinth:
An Anniversary Poem

(23 August 1997)
©1998 Robert Elliott,Jr.

Part 1. A Frame


Holden, Missouri
Washington, D.C.
Penn Hall
Murray Creek

Fifty years
Times two
A hundred years
Many labyrinths

Part 2. A Myth Variation

In this version,
You are Theseus and Ariadne,
Children of the royal houses
Of Athens and Knossos,
And you spend years trying to escape
The Labyrinths of Power,
Set for you like traps
By King Aegeus and King Minos:

Ignoring the Minotaur
(In this nonviolent version of the myth
His bellow is sharper than his horns),
You follow the string from
The center of the Labyrinth
To the edge.

Accumulating a crowd of children as you go,
You liberate the captives
Of King Minosí bureaucracy

Then, always exploring,
You travel from island to island;
Except: in this version of the myth,
You stay together for 50 years
-At least!-
Founding cities as you go:
Patmos, Cyrene, Valletta, Messina, Brindisi,

Part 3. An Imagining of Your Life Together

Popular but lonely,
You are late adolescents when you meet,
Tall, shy, barely out of childhood,
Practicing sophistication.

One of you is an only child,
Struggling with new freedom;
The other is haunted
By unspeakable loss.
Each of you recognizes
The pain in the other,
And the strength of a survivor.

You are born to leadership,
But you donít like to admit it,
So you give up the cities
In whose labyrinths you have lived.

And you move inland,
To a great valley,
Where two rivers meet,
Where no one knows you,
Where you can live quietly.

And when everyone in that place
Knows who you are
And wants you to lead them,
You escape again:
To a small valley
Where one stream flows,
Where no one knows you,
Where you can live quietly.

And what you keep finding,
Instead of anonymity and quiet,
Are new, wilderness labyrinths,
Not the old labyrinths of power,
The escape from which is freedom;
But labyrinths of love,
Winding around your human hearts;
And labyrinths of seeking, wondering,
Winding deeper and deeper,
Into the soul of the world;
Or climbing higher and higher
Up the sacred mountain.

And then you spend five decades
Exploring these,
Transforming the mere meander of going on
To a journey with a point:
The still point at the center.

Part 4. An Accounting

But now fifty years later,
I wonder if you realize
That you have never really escaped
The labyrinths of power,
That wherever you have traveled,
And however much you felt yourselves
To be at the periphery, on the outside,
Even over the edge,
That you really are at the center
Of a Labyrinth of power.

And however much you have tried
To give up leading others
As you moved further and further
From the city into the wilderness,
You havenít:

You have collected fellow explorers
And children, on your way,
Both freeing them and binding them
In a labyrinth of relationship
Like a planet forming from stellar dust,
Like the children
of the royal houses of Athens and Knossos.

Do you know how many lives
You have touched as you traveled,
And how deeply?

* * *

How many of us are like me?:
Sometimes, I wake in the night,
In an existential panic,
Fear clutching at my heart,
Imagining my own death and nothingness.

And then I think of you two
Sailing on from island to island,
Always something new,
Always going on.

And I stop flailing and sinking beneath my fears,
And I picture you two
As you continue on your journey:
More islands, more mountains,
More valleys, more labyrinths to walk.

And somehow,
I donít really understand how,
I feel at peace,
And continue on my journey,
My islands, my mountains,
My valleys, my labyrinths to walk:
On sunlit days, on the leafy path,
Amidst families of oaks.

* * *

And as we walk those labyrinths,
We are all bound together with you.
We enter the place,
Turn left, follow the circle,
Loop back, on and on.
Quietly, we pass one another
Again and again:
We smile, recognizing each other
As fellow explorers,
Walking the same path,
Seeking the center,
The heart,
The still point
Which always is.

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